A Fans' View: Albion 2 - 1 Liverpool
Sussexbaggie gives his verdict on Albion's win What a truly brilliant performance! Not only did we beat Liverpool, we controlled the game for long periods and fully deserved to take the three points. Games like this take on added significance for me, as being from Sussex, I know quite a lot of Liverpool fans and seeing us win has made going into college far easier than it would have been if they had got the comfortable victory they were expecting. Team Roy Hodgson only made one enforced change to the side which had drawn with Arsenal two weeks previously, as Simon Cox replaced the injured James Morrison in the starting line-up. This change saw us line up in a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation, with Cox partnering Peter Odemwingie up front and Chris Brunt moving out to the right-hand side of a four-man midfield. First half The first half saw very chances for either side, although the first 15 minutes or so was the only period of the game where we looked a bit off the pace. During this period, we were lucky to see Dirk Kuyt send a close-range effort just over after Scott Carson had done very well to keep out an initial effort from Andy Carroll following a corner. We were given a boost as Liverpool were forced to make two changes to their back four in the opening 25 minutes, with both Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger forced to go off injured. Without really creating any chances, we began to come into the game more and started to enjoy more possession around their penalty area. Peter Odemwingie was particularly impressive against a back four who were simply too slow to keep up with him, which was shown when he held off both Jamie Carragher and Lucas to force Pepe Reina into a relatively comfortable save from a tight angle and then sent an effort from 15 yards just wide not long before half-time. Our supporters, who had been in fine voice throughout the game, justifiably applauded the players off the pitch at half-time after a hard-working display. Second half We started the second half on the front foot and nearly went ahead when Simon Cox saw a half-volley from a tight angle superbly saved by Reina. However, Liverpool undeservedly took the lead against the run of play after 50 minutes. The goal came from a free header at a set-piece, with Martin Skrtel easily out-jumping Paul Scharner at the far post to connect with a Raul Meireles corner and send a powerful header into the top corner. In previous games against sides like Liverpool, we may have capitulated and gone on to lose comfortably. However, the belief from earlier in the season seems to have returned under Hodgson and, if anything, going behind galvanised us and ensured that the players would work even harder to come back and take something from the game. We got our opportunity to equalise after 62 minutes, as referee Martin Atkinson correctly awarded a penalty after Odemwingie was fouled by Sotirios Kyrgiakos. Brunt stepped up and waited for Reina to dive to his left before drilling the ball straight down the middle to deservedly level the scores. The noise inside The Hawthorns increased after this and there seemed to be a growing belief, certainly among the people where I sit in the Smethwick End, that Liverpool were there for the taking. We were unlucky not to score again with about ten minutes remaining, as Carragher, who had struggled to keep up with the likes of Jerome Thomas and Odemwingie, blocked the latter’s shot when it seemed destined for the far corner. However, with just two minutes of normal time remaining, we were given the opportunity to take all three points. Once again, Odemwingie proved too fast and strong for Kyrgiakos, before being fouled by Reina as he attempted to round the goalkeeper, after latching onto a long ball forward from Jonas Olsson. Brunt stepped up to take the penalty again and although Reina guessed the right way by diving to his right, Brunt’s effort was far too powerful and accurate for the Spaniard to keep out. The last five minutes or so (including injury time) were some of the most frantic I have ever seen at The Hawthorns, with Hodgson’s name being belted out by all four stands and Liverpool putting us under the cosh. Their first opportunity saw Carson make a good save from a Meireles shot from the edge of the area, before Skrtel put a free header wide at the far post from the resulting corner. From another corner in the last minute of injury time, Carson made a fine save from a low Luis Suarez shot and Nicky Shorey was forced into an outstanding headed clearance off the line after the Uruguayan striker had lifted the ball over the head of Carson from a tight angle. Seconds later, the final whistle went and the Albion supporters were able to celebrate our first victory over Liverpool in 30 years! On reflection I don’t think we could have asked for a better performance from the players. We were outstanding all over the park and for long periods of the game, controlled the threat of Suarez, who was effectively playing up front on his own due to Andy Carroll putting in his second poor performance of the season at The Hawthorns. The only time we were under any real pressure was during injury time, when Liverpool understandably put us under a lot of pressure as they searched for an equaliser. With all the hype surrounding Roy Hodgson, it is easy to forget that this could prove to be an absolutely massive game in our survival bid. With West Ham surrendering a two-goal lead in the early kick-off against Manchester United, we knew that a victory could move us clear of at least one other side at the bottom of the Premier League. Wolves were comfortably beaten at Newcastle, and although Blackburn got a good point at Arsenal, they still appear to be in free-fall. Back to our game yesterday, impressive performances came from every single Albion player. It is difficult to select any stand-out performances, but I think Scott Carson, Abdoulaye Meite, Jonas Olsson, Nicky Shorey, Youssouf Mulumbu, Chris Brunt and Peter Odemwingie all produced absolutely superb performances, with the other four players who started the game also deserving a lot of praise for their performance. The atmosphere was the best I have experienced this season, even better than the superb occasion at The Emirates back in September. I left the ground yesterday with no voice and it has still not returned properly, which is what watching football should be all about. If we can continue to play as we did yesterday, then I honestly think we can stay up this season. Roy Hodgson was unsurprisingly quite guarded after the game yesterday and refused to go over-the-top, but I’m sure he will have been delighted with the performance the fact that he was able to get one over on his old club. This report makes a huge change to the last report I did (the West Ham home game), where we all agreed that Hodgson had his work cut out to keep us up. He is certainly going about it the right way! Boing Boing!
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