Albion have enjoyed recent trips to Anfield but were brought back down to earth yesterday after a stellar show from Liverpool’s ‘SAS’.
Make no mistake about it, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were excellent for Liverpool. But Albion didn’t help themselves after a strange team selection by Steve Clarke.
Nicolas Anelka was brought in for young forward Saido Berahino as Victor Anichebe was selected on the left with Sessegnon given the supporting role behind Anelka. The move dramatically backfired.
The Baggies went into the game in fine form – unbeaten in five, having taken nine points out of a possible 15. Yet Albion started really slowly and struggled from kick off to match Liverpool.
Liverpool’s front two caused Albion’s defence all sort of problems with their movement. Suarez and Sturridge routinely dropped deep leaving Olsson and McAuley unsure whether to follow or leave their men to Albion’s shielding midfielders.
Time and time again, Liverpool’s ‘SAS’ found space in between the back four and midfield. Suarez’s clever movement saw him open the scoring in the 12 minute. He skipped past Yacob before nut-megging Jonas Olsson to fire past the helpless Boaz Myhill.
It was two five minutes later. Amalfitano tried to tackle Cissokho but the ball fired off the Liverpool defender’s legs and into the path of Suarez, who impressively headed over from 17 yards out.
Albion were lucky not to be further behind when Suarez fed Gerrard with a clever free kick. But his cross was mis-kicked by Martin Skrtel allowing Mulumbu to clear.
The Baggies first effort of the half came in the 33minute when Jonas Olsson headed over from a free kick. Clarke’s experiment to select Anelka as the lone striker was proving to be a terrible decision. Time and time again Albion cleared the ball but the Frenchman was unable to hold the ball up or find his supporting teammates.
Frustratingly, Anichebe was isolated on the left and offered Ridgewell little protection and Albion’s most creative player, Sessegnon, was starved of possession.
Yet Albion could’ve made it 2-1 moments before half time. Mulumbu sent a long ball forward towards Anelka. The Frenchman got to the ball before Mignolet but failed to connect with the ball properly allowing Skrtel to clear off the line.
After the break
James Morrison came on for the injured Amalfitano as Clarke surprisingly continued with the same side and formation which had struggled so much in the first 45 minutes.
Liverpool’s dominance continued after the break. Yacob made a clumsy foul on Sturridge. From the resulting free kick, Suarez flicked home Gerrard’s free kick after Anichebe had left his man. I’m still not sure why Anichebe was asked to mark Liverpool’s in-form striker. The game was effectively over just 55 minutes into the match.
But the hosts were not ready to sit back. It was almost four minutes later when Sturridge picked the ball up, turned and ran at Olsson. The defender back peddled and allowed the England international to fire a curling stop at goal. Thankfully for Albion it cannoned back off the bar.
In a rare venture forward Albion won a penalty in the 66th minute. Billy Jones jinked into the area and was felled by Lucas. The referee initially ignored the foul, but his assistant flagged for a penalty. James Morrison stepped up to fire home.
Minutes later Clarke had finally saw enough of the laborious Anelka and subbed him and Yacob for Brunt and Long. Anichebe was finally relieved of his left-sided duties and took up a more natural position up front along Long.
Although 3-1 down, Albion finally looked dangerous going forward. Sessegnon saw more of the ball and Long was able to challenge high balls and offered a threat running on to balls in the channel. The Republic of Ireland international did more in five minutes than Anelka had done in an hour.
Anichebe and Brunt both had efforts on goal as the Baggies pushed forward for a second. But it was another excellent Liverpool goal that followed. Sturridge brushed off Mulumbu before chipping Myhill from 20 yards.
Myhill then made a two excellent saves to deny Suarez a fourth. The first, a smart low save, was eclipsed by a superb reflex stop as the Welshman pushed an overhead kick on to the bar from a matter of yards.
Despite going into the game on the back of some decent results, Albion looked beaten from the first whistle. The selection – again – of Nicolas Anelka up front didn’t help. Albion were desperate for somebody to hold the ball up in the opening 30 minutes. Yet Anelka jogged around, didn’t contest headers and allowed Liverpool to easily create the foundations for attack after attack. The one player on the pitch who could’ve done this for Albion was strangly selected on the left wing. Anichebe may be lots of things, but he’s certainly not a left winger.
But I don’t think you can take anything away from the brilliance of Suarez and Sturridge. Albion were unable to deal with their movement or trickery. Although Albion conceded four goals, three of them were unstoppable. Liverpool’s third goal was down to a lack of concentration, but the other three were down to individual brilliance. In the Premier League, sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and admit you were beaten by a team filled with better players.
Thankfully, Albion won’t have that sort of problem against Crystal Palace next weekend.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES.
Have your say on Albion's defeat here at Baggies Banter.