West Brom 0-2 Liverpool: Sunday Mirror match report
Published 22:00 29/10/11 By Ralph Ellis
Suddenly it doesn’t matter quite so much if Steven Gerrard is missing.
The skipper who was the Reds inspiration has now played only eight full games this calendar year – but Luis Suarez is turning into the Kop’s new talisman.
And the striker underlined it with a brilliant display last night.
He won an early penalty for Charlie Adam then set up Andy Carroll for a second goal as Kenny Dalglish’s side extended their unbeaten run to seven games.
The penalty was a major bonus for Dalglish after losing both his skipper Gerrard and inspirational defender Jamie Carragher through injury.
Gerrard’s comeback from seven months out with a groin strain was disrupted because he got a kick on his ankle in training, while Carragher has a calf strain.
The two have been the heartbeat of Liverpool’s side for so long – this was only the ninth time in more than five seasons that the Reds had started a Premier League game without both of their two local heroes in the line-up.
There is the temptation to think that Suarez is rapidly becoming Liverpool’s most crucial player, and he did beat a fitness test on an ankle injury.
The Uruguayan who cost £22million from Ajax last January is fast becoming the playmaker, and he should have scored after just a minute but didn’t get a good touch on Jose Enrique’s through ball.
Then he wriggled clear to set up Adam for a shot that flew high over the bar, before his determination to be involved in everything brought him into position to win what was a very soft penalty.
Albion boss Roy Hodgson wouldn’t admit it, but there was a certain rough justice about it.
Referee Lee Mason was a couple of yards from Suarez as he tumbled over a challenge by Jerome Thomas – and saw nothing wrong.
But his linesman Gary Beswick immediately signalled for a foul and a penalty, much to the horror of the home defenders who surrounded Mason in protest.
A week ago Albion had been given a lifeline at Villa when another assistant ref – World Cup official Darren Cann – gave a penalty and red card in their favour for an offence that was subsequently ruled on appeal not to have happened.
It was more than a minute before the fuss died down, but Charlie Adam was the coolest around as he stepped up to drill the ball into the bottom left-hand corner while Ben Foster dived the other way.
Liverpool claimed they could have had another
spot-kick soon after, as Carroll met a Suarez cross with a header that cannoned off the arm of defender Steven Reid, but Mason ruled it was accidental and gave a corner.
Albion were struggling to get in the game, and defender Jonas Olsson tried to liven up the crowd by clattering into Carroll, a foul that rightly got him awarded a yellow card. But you couldn’t fault the determination of the giant Swedish centre half, and he made a brilliant block to stop Carroll turning home a Stewart Downing cross just before the break.
But a few minutes later he spoilt all that by giving a second goal away, knocking the ball straight to Lucas who released Suarez.
The South American picked out the perfect pass for Carroll to knock it past the despairing Foster and into an empty net.
Somen Tchoyi raised some hope for the home side with a shot on the turn soon after the restart, but the Red tide kept rolling.
The travelling Kop fans were singing “I just can’t get enough of Suarez,” and it wasn’t hard to see why. He set up Adam for a shot that was blocked, and then beat two defenders on a break before Foster saved at his feet.
He was irresistible, forcing Olsson to make a block and then trying a brilliant chip that went just over – and West Brom had no answer.
VERDICT: Liverpool probably didn't need the help of an early soft penalty. But once they'd got it there was only ever going to be one result.
THE BIG ISSUE: Do Liverpool drop too many 'silly' points to mount a serious top four challenge?
With points gone begging already before last night to Sunderland, Stoke and Norwich, Kenny Dalglish’s side couldn’t afford too many more soft slip-ups.
They knew it too, and even before Charlie Adam’s ninth minute penalty had made two good chances to take the lead.
West Brom was one of the places they dropped points last season, a result that was all the more galling because Liverpool had won all the other 12 times the clubs had met in the Barclays Premier League.
Dalglish made sure there would be no repeat by demanding a high tempo from the start and it suffocated Roy Hodgson’s team.
That’s the recipe for the rest of the season against the so called lesser sides, and if they go on like last night then a top four place is perfectly possible.