It took until the 81st minute, but West Brom finally pulled away en route to a 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield on Monday.
Liverpool had control almost the entire match, peppering strikes on goal throughout. The Reds had possession for 59 percent of the match, keeping the pressure on West Brom and holding the Baggies to just three shots on goal.
But with several strikes unable to find the net, Liverpool’s fate changed direction when Gareth McAuley found the goal with a header in the 81st minute. It was West Brom’s second attempt on goal all match, but McAuley made it count.
McAuley’s header shifted the momentum, and the Baggies capitalized once again in the 90th minute when Romelu Lukaku’s right foot found the back of the net for his 10th goal of the Premier League season.
Neither club came into the match having had much success against quality Premier League teams this season. Entering Monday’s action, Liverpool had failed to win in 13 matches against Premier League teams in the top half of the tables. West Brom hadn’t won a PL match in its last six efforts.
The low-scoring nature of the affair wasn’t particularly surprising, but the fact that West Brom managed to pull away with two late goals was, considering this interesting statistic provided before the match by FootballFacts:
West Brom have scored just 2 goals in their last 12 visits to Anfield in the League.— Football Facts (@FootballFacts1) February 11, 2013
The fact that Liverpool failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities was troubling. The Reds had several opportunities to score, including a Steven Gerrard penalty kick to the lower-right corner in the 77th minute that was saved by West Brom keeper Ben Foster.
Liverpool was unable to find the extra gear to finish off West Brom early, and it cost the team the match. The Reds squandered a golden opportunity, and as Opta Sports points out, that has been a problem for Liverpool in recent matches against West Brom:
4 - WBA have won four of their last five league games v Liverpool after winning only one of the previous 32. Hoodoo.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 11, 2013
The five minutes of stoppage time was merely a formality. With West Brom’s two late goals, the Baggies completed a stunner over the Reds on their home pitch in front of a crowd that was less than thrilled with their club’s performance.
The win was a huge boost for West Brom in the tables, as pointed out by the Premier League’s Twitter account:
Steven Gerrard: C
This tweet from Opta Sports sums up Gerrard’s day perfectly:
3 - Steven Gerrard has failed to score with three of his last seven Premier League penalties. Squander.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 11, 2013
Gerrard had a chance to get Liverpool on the board with all the momentum late in the match, but he went low-right with his penalty kick and failed to find the net. It wasn’t long after his attempt that West Brom turned the tables and sealed the game.
Despite still being one of the best players in the league, Gerrard didn’t play his best game on Monday, and a couple missed scoring opportunities ultimately decided Liverpool’s fate.
Romelu Lukaku: B+
Lukaku came off the bench and did exactly what he’s been asked to do all season—something he has done well, as the Premier League Twitter account suggests:
Lukaku didn’t see a lot of action off the bench, but he made his time on the pitch count. His 90th-minute goal was the death blow that secured West Brom’s victory.
While Liverpool wasn’t exactly prepared to defend Lukaku’s scoring strike, he still took advantage of the opportunity and played well in his time in the match. With 10 goals in 12 games this season, he’s proving to be an excellent asset for the Baggies.
Ben Foster: A
Foster was superb in his performance against West Brom. He had several key saves, including the stopped penalty shot from the foot of Gerrard that easily could have swung the momentum for Liverpool.
West Brom couldn’t have asked for a better performance from its keeper in a crucial PL match. He allowed the Baggies to hold out long enough for a couple late scoring opportunities that ultimately decided the outcome.
Had Jonjo Shelvey’s ninth-minute goal been allowed, Liverpool may have run away with that match. Foster got lucky with the offside call, but he didn’t allow the Reds another chance like that all match.