Saturday, April 2, 2011

Liverpool's Chances of the Champions League Evaporate as West Brom's Chances of Survival Improve

Roy Hodgson returned to haunt Liverpool yesterday as his West Brom side virtually killed off any slight outside chance the Reds had of Champions League football next year.

Two penalties from Chris Brunt after Martin Skrtel had opened the scoring for Liverpool were enough for the Baggies to deservedly claim all three points and thus extend their unbeaten run under the ex-Liverpool boss to five games.

The crucial win has seen West Brom's chances of survival enhanced although they still remain within touching distance of the drop with seven games to go and Liverpool's hopes of a top four finish completely evaporate.

Liverpool, without the influential Steven Gerrard, were always second best on the day despite the best efforts of Luis Suarez who continues to impress. His strike partner Andy Carroll, a fellow deadline day signing, however, remains goalless and endured another frustrating outing as the Baggies reformed defence coped with him comfortably.

Kenny Dalglish's plans were hit by a double injury blow to Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger who could be out for the rest of the season after picking up a serious looking knee injury. The withdrawal of the Danish centre half forced the Reds boss into pushing Sotirios Krygiakos into action and the seeds for defeat were sown in that move as Peter Odemwengie completely overpowered and out thought the Greek international for the rest of the game.

With Odemwengie bullying the Greek international all over the pitch, he was forced to go to ground far more often than he would have liked and as the Baggies centre forward burst into the box on the hour mark all Krygiakos could do was lunge at the ball from behind and bring Odemwengie down in the process.

Chris Brunt stepped up to smash home the equaliser and from there the Baggie did not look back as a furious Pepe Reina read his defence, and Krygiakos in particular, the riot act.

20 minutes later and Odemwengie and Krygiakos were central again as the Baggies striker forced his way past the static Greek defender after a sublime first touch. Reina charged off his line but could do little other than bring the striker down as he deftly twisted inside as the goal mouth gaped.

Brunt stepped up to face Reina for his second penalty of the game and dis not disappoint.

Liverpool sprung back to life for the final few minutes and forced their ex-'keeper, Scott Carson, into making a phenomenal save from Suarez when the back of the net beckoned before Nicky Shorey cleared the Uruguayan's lob from off the line to guarantee all three points for their battle against relegation.

After the match, an upbeat Hodgson played down any talk of revenge or retribution in the crucial win over his old team.

"I don't take any particular pleasure in that victory," said Hodgson.

"The great pleasure I take is beating Liverpool because it is not something West Brom do very often."

"I am more than satisfied, I am really happy with the performance," added Hodgson.

"I thought apart from the first 15 minutes, we took the game to Liverpool and played some really good football.

"When we went a goal down, it was very much against the run of play but it was a great achievement for the players to put that behind them and score two goals."

"We do have a considerable goal threat in the team and it was nice to see the team pass the ball so well against a quality team like Liverpool."

Before Roy Hodgson took over five games ago the Baggies looked dead certainties to be relegated but having gone those five games unbeaten they have climbed well out of the drop zone.

The hardest part is yet to come though with Sunderland, Chelsea, Spurs, Villa, Wolves, Everton, and Newcastle all yet to play.

Given the good start Hodgson has made to his time at the Hawthorns few would bet against them being relegated now.

twitter / WillieGannon