A televised, Monday night game against Liverpool was not a prospect many of us Albion fans were looking forward to, especially considering our somewhat poor form of late. However, come the final whistle, the travelling fans were bouncing, chanting and cheering as the Baggies jumped above Liverpool in the league table after a 2-0 win that will live long in the memory, giving us our first league double over Liverpool for a staggering 46 years. Back in our early Premier League days, Liverpool used to be our bogey team, but we can now boast a very good record against them in recent years.
Being based in Manchester, this was a game that I couldn’t miss, even with high ticket prices and the extra adage of being Sky’s ‘Monday Night Football’ game. Before the game, I was not optimistic, hopeful of a draw, with a win not even crossing my mind. How I would be proved wrong.
The big team news before the game saw Youssef Mulumbu return to the side after his African adventure in place of Lukaku. In defence, there was one change with Liam Ridgwell replacing the suspended Goran Popov, after his moment of stupidity against Tottenham. Peter Odemwingie travelled with the team, but was not named in the team. The hosts made one change with Jonjo Shelvey replacing Daniel Sturridge.
The First Half
The first shot of this half went to Luis Suarez, who after a few minutes dragged a shot wide. Then just ten minutes into the half, Jonjo Shelvey sent the ball into the back of the net, only for it to be correctly ruled offside much to the delight of the travelling fans. This offside goal seemed to give Liverpool the strength to control the game and they dictating the tempo of the game for the majority of this half, with the next chance falling to Daniel Agger who very nearly headed home from a corner, only for Foster to tip the effort over the bar.
Stewart Downing was next to have a chance but yet again Foster came to the rescue. After a few more chances for the home team, it was Steven Reid who very nearly came close to scoring, however in the wrong net, kicking the ball over the goal from 3 yards out. Liverpool still had more chances to finish the first half with, however a draw at half-time seemed like a good half for the Baggies. Admittedly, we were riding our luck, at times, but Foster was in inspired form in goal. If we could hold out for another 45 minutes this would be good. No one was to expect what was to unfold in the second half.
The Second Half
The second half started very much in the same vein as the first, with Liverpool having the first chance when Foster denied Steven Gerrard from point blank range. Just minutes later, Liverpool had another chance when Jordan Henderson sent a cheeky back heel into Foster. Albion seemed to weather the storm, frustrating both the Liverpool fans and players, in particular Luis Suarez, who was having a good time testing Foster.
Foster yet again soon pulled off another great save when he did a reflex save to deny Gerrard following a strong 12 yard shot from the England captain. Fabio Borini had the chance to score with the follow up, but sent the ball wide of the net.Next chance was to go to Downing again, who this time sent his free kick over the crossbar. Shortly after this, Lukaku was brought on by Clarke much to the delight of the away fans. However, just moments later, Liverpool were awarded a penalty.
Luis Suarez went down very easily in the box following a ‘challenge’ by Jonas Olsson. It was clear this was a soft penalty, but we needn’t have worried when Foster dived low and pushed away Gerrard’s spot kick. With the penalty save, you could just start sensing something that perhaps it just might be our night tonight.
Then, with ten minutes to go, Gareth McAuley headed Chris Brunt’s corner into the back of the net sending the away fans in the Anfield Road mad. After 80 minutes of Liverpool constantly bombarding us, we had finally gone against the run of play and scored the goal. Now how times has that happened to us? This was ‘smash and grab’ football in all of its glory and the Liverpool fans starting to head towards the exits.
Then from a quick counter attacking move, in injury time, James Morrison released Lukaku, with the Fridge from Stamford Bridge finding the corner of the net and burying his 10th goal of the season. This was it, a win secured. Who would have thought this?
Foster had been in inspirational form alongside the returning Yakob and Mulumbu partnership, a partnership that has sorely been missed.
This was one of those games that will certainly live long in the memory, a game where we walked away with three points when arguably the opposition were the better side. Liverpool had chances after chances and if it wasn’t for Foster, I am sure we would be reading about a loss at Anfield. Seeing Mulumbu and Yakob play alongside each other was also a welcome sight for many Albion fans, with us clearly missing them in recent games.
After what can only be described as a poor January seeing us get dumped out of the cup and not pick up a win, getting a win was a exactly what we needed. Sunderland at home is next and that is a game that we should really target three points off. Hopefully this Liverpool win will give us the drive to go on and pick up more points. The season is still not over yet and there are a lot of points up for grabs over the next few months.
However, I don’t know if I can deal with this ‘smash and grab’ tactic every week; I was a nervous wreck on Monday night, but went home feeling very proud, and also very welcome in Manchester…Boing Boing!