Liverpool showed all the reasons they have struggled this season in a match they should have won
Liverpool were playing host to a West Bromwich Albion side led by former Reds manager Roy Hodgson, who had endured a tumultous time in charge of the club, and was eventually placed by Kenny Dalglish half way through last season.
Liverpool's squad selection showed that Dalglish had an eye on the upcoming FA Cup final against Chelsea, with his refusal to let Gerrard get any game time against a time which, in any other season, you would expect Liverpool to take down with ease. That said, the back four of Skrtel, Agger, Johnson and Enrique is definitely a first choice line up, and these four have been the most solid in terms of goals conceded this season. Up front, Maxi, Kuyt, Suarez and Carroll should have had enough in them to trouble West Brom, and trouble them they did. It was largely in part to the work of the front four that the centre midfield pairing of Henderson and Spearing were not put under undue pressure by a West Brom midfield who easily would have had the better of them in a physical contest.
Liverpool started brightly by hogging possession and moving the ball out to the flanks. This was one of the few games this season where Liverpool have had so much joy down both wings, and Maxi, Kuyt, Johnson and Enrique all enjoyed space and time to pick out passes into the box. However, what was missing, as it has been all season, was the finishing touch. One of the principal reasons offered for Carroll's inability to regularly score at Liverpool is the lack of service from the wings. It was not so in this case, as crosses were regularly floating in from either side of the box. Suarez was his usual mischievous self, and his numerous battles with West Brom's Olsson were great to watch, as both the attacker and defender showed great skill in doing their job.
Liverpool pressed high up the pitch, and made a lot of chances but failed to test Ben Foster in goal. Kuyt's early miss was indicative of the Reds' profligacy in front of goal, and even at that early stage, I could only shake my head thinking, 'this will be another one of those days'. Liverpool's play was crisp for the most part, as Johnson and Enrique constantly pushed up to offer support to Kuyt and Maxi, who drifted towards the centre to link up with Suarez. That said, when the whistle blew for the end of the first half, it was West Brom who had forced a couple of saves from Pepe Reina, while Liverpool had only added to their shots-off-target tally. For all of Liverpool's dominance, they had not looked convincing when the ball was crossed into the box, whether from a set piece or otherwise.
So far, so typical; control in midfield, attacking regularly, not scoring, showing frailty at the back.
The second half kicked off and showed all the missing elements from an overall disappointing performance. Henderson hit the bar, and so did Kuyt for good measure. Suarez was continually a menace as he got into space coming into the box from the left hand side, only to blaze high and wide. Carroll sent a couple of chances above the cross bar. All the while, one could not shake off the feeling that Liverpool would concede a goal somehow. Lo and behold, the defensive frailty was exposed as a poor decision by Johnson, to try a difficult pass with the outside of his foot when facing his own goal, and ignoring the far easier option of passing the ball back to the goalkeeper, led to the Reds conceding. Liverpool did not look like they would score, and the match ended with a 0-1 scoreline. Liverpool have only won a single game at Anfield in 2012, and Roy Hodgson has a chance to heap further ignominy on his former employers, as his West Bromwich side are now within a point of Liverpool, who are currently sitting in lowly 8th place, facing the very real threat of ending the season in the bottom half of the league table.
Liverpool have been consistent in all the wrong ways this season, and in this match, they continued their run of hitting the woodwork, making poor decisions in the opposition penalty area, making the odd gaffe in defence, and coming away with nothing from a game they should have, by all rights, won.