x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Prudent Roy Hodgson savours taking Liverpool scalp

West Brom beat Liverpool 2-1 at the Hawthorns but Roy Hodgson, the manager, doesn't take any pleasure from beating his former club.

Chris Brunt, right, celebrates after scoring his second penalty against Liverpool yesterday.
Chris Brunt, right, celebrates after scoring his second penalty against Liverpool yesterday.

West Brom 2 // Liverpool 1

WEST BROMWICH // West Bromwich Albion had never taken a Premier League point from this fixture; not even scored a solitary goal. Then, led by the man turfed out of Anfield after just six traumatic months, they rise from a goal behind to claim an emotional, potentially critical, victory in their struggle for survival.

One man's training ground ennui is another's inspiration. At Liverpool, players took badly to Roy Hodgson's repetitive formation drills.

At The Hawthorns, they have introduced a sorely needed solidity to a pleasantly creative side.

"I don't take any particular pleasure in that [victory] at all because I made a lot of friends when I was at Liverpool," said Hodgson, his team now 12th, four points cushioned from the drop zone.

"The players I have a lot of time and respect for. Many of the coaching staff worked very loyally for me.

"The great pleasure I take is in beating Liverpool Football Club because at West Brom that's not something we do very often. Today we did it and I thought we deserved to do it."

Hodgson was not wrong. Never less than precisely organised, always a threat through the mercurial Peter Odemwingie, his new charges simply refused to accept defeat.

Deprived of Steven Gerrard after a new, as yet unidentified, injury preparing for the game, Liverpool's other shortfall was at full-back; one exacerbated when Glen Johnson pulled a hamstring chasing down Chris Brunt.

Shunted out to the left of a back four comprised entirely of central defenders, Daniel Agger quickly joined Johnson with a strained knee tendon.

The early aggression that saw Dirk Kuyt hit goalkeeper and bar also exited Liverpool's game, replaced with unimaginative long balls to Andy Carroll, who blustered and play-acted his way to an early caution.

West Brom used the possession ceded to them to garner confidence and opportunity. Shifting Jamie Carragher one way then the other, Odemwingie fired angled balls at goal. Pepe Reina athletically gathered strikes from the Nigerian and Steven Reid then kept out a Martin Skrtel back header.

Then came an undeserved Liverpool opener as Abdoulaye Meite misread an unthreatening centre, allowing Carroll to gather and launch a deflected shot at goal. From the corner, Skrtel leapt high above a negligent Paul Scharner to head in Raul Meireles's precise delivery.

Reina saved once more from Brunt before his makeshift defence overexposed him. Taking possession at the edge of the area, Odemwingie applied sleight of body to Sotirios Kyrgiakos to draw an unnecessary foul.

Betraying his anxiety, Brunt quickly drove the penalty past Reina for West Brom's first Premier League goal against Liverpool.

Twice more was Reina required to turn away efforts from the persistently excellent Odemwingie, while Luis Suarez justifiably protested that Meite had illegally hauled him down in potential goal-scoring positions. There was worse to come. Jonas Olsson's thumped clearance was wonderfully controlled by Odemwingie, who simultaneously sent the hapless Kyrgiakos toppling to the turf.

Sprinting on towards the six-yard box, the striker swivelled past Reina, whose trailing leg brought about a clear penalty.

This time Brunt's conversion was as emphatic as the Hawthorns roar.

Admitting that his team's failings provided "food for thought", Kenny Dalglish asked why the second spot kick had been awarded by the linesman. "If you don't get penalties for that then penalties might not exist," parried Hodgson, who had still to endure a nerve-ridden conclusion.

Skrtel missed with an easier header than he scored; Suarez stared in disbelief as first Scott Carson then Nicky Shorey clawed shots off the line.

"Thanks for the grey hairs," read Liverpool's banner to their former manager. They were not thanking Hodgson for these latest insults.

 

sports@thenational.ae

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