Former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson led his current employers West Bromich Albion to a well deserved 2-1 victory over the Reds yesterday, as the Merseysiders' faint hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League were all but crushed in a disappointing day in the Midlands.
Martin Skrtel's 50th minute header had given the visitors the lead against the run of play, however two well taken and correctly awarded penalties from Baggies captain Chris Brunt after fatal mistakes from substitute Sotirios Kyrgiakos earned the hosts three crucial points in their fight against relegation, and subjected Liverpool to a frustrating setback.
Prior to kick off the media attention focused on the two managers, as the hugely unpopular Hodgson took on his celebrated and successful successor Kenny Dalglish, in a clash that pitted the legendary Scot's enterprising brand of football against the defensive doggedness of the Londoner’s outfit.
With both Liverpool and West Brom enjoying much improved form under their new bosses a competitive, keenly contested encounter ensued, however the hosts were in the ascendancy, threatening Reina's goal frequently and calling the Spaniard, who was clearly Liverpool's man of the match, into action on regular occasions.
Despite this the first chance fell to the Reds, when Carson blocked Kuyt's header and the Dutchman hit the rebound high over the bar after Carroll had reached Meireles' corner and headed towards Liverpool's number 18 at the back post.
Within the first 25 minutes the away side were forced to make two substitutions, as our already injury ravaged back line suffered further, with Kyrgiakos and Wilson replacing Johnson and Agger respectively. This disrupted our flow and allowed the home side to control proceedings, with Brunt and Cox testing Reina with efforts from range.
Ten minutes before the break Odemwingie went past Lucas and Carragher on the right with ease, but his arrowed drive was fortunately straight at Reina. Moments later Skrtel inadvertently headed towards his own goal after the hosts had whipped the ball into the box, causing Reina to make another good stop in order to retain parity.
After an unwelcome defensive re-shuffle the Reds were struggling to claim control of the match, and the interval provided a much needed break for Dalglish's troops to re-organise and attempt to assert their dominance over their relegation threatened opposition.
West Brom had the first chance of the second period though, with Reina making a fine stop to thwart Cox after the Baggies' striker had sprung the Reds' offside trap on 46 minutes. Liverpool quickly responded as Carson deflected Carroll's strike inches over the bar. Skrtel powered home Meireles' resultant corner with his head to give the visitors the unwarranted yet critical first goal.
Kuyt then saw his shot saved by the legs of Carson, however the Reds remained under pressure for the rest of the second half, and failed to seriously pressurise the hosts' goal until the dying moments, when the proverbial kitchen sink was thrown at the Midlanders.
A timely intervention at the back post from Wilson was needed to deny Odemwingie a near-certain goal on 58 minutes, however that pressure eventually told as Kyrgiakos' clumsy tackle from behind on the hour mark gifted West Brom a route match into the match from the penalty spot. Brunt stood up and coolly slotted straight down the centre of the goal to equalise and set up a grand finale.
Peter Odemwingie continued to terrorise our defence, as he cut inside Soto and forced Reina to repel his powerful drive before only a sensational block by Carra thwarted the Baggies' number 24 from point-blank range. After that the Nigerian international flashed a shot threateningly across the face of goal, before he beat the back peddling Kyrgiakos far too easily with three minutes remaining to go one-on-one with Reina.
The exposed Spaniard brought down Odemwingie and Brunt held his nerve to fire the resulting spot kick confidently beyond Reina's despairing dive and into the left hand corner.
In the closing stages Liverpool went close to grabbing a late equaliser, with Skrtel heading agonisingly wide from Meireles' corner after Carson had turned the Portuguese’s shot behind, before Suarez expertly lobbed the ball over the mass of bodies in the box, only to see Jara clear off the line to deny the Uruguayan and condemn the Reds to their first League defeat in just over a month.
This below par performance should be rightly criticised for lacking attacking potency and defensive mettle, however the loss of Johnson and Agger early on through injury understandably hampered our chances of securing points. Perhaps more importantly West Bromich Albion played forward-thinking football without fear, the likes of which was never witnessed during Hodgson’s dire six-month spell in charge of Liverpool.
The former Fulham manager is an expert at taking teams from the brink of relegation into mid table mediocrity, and should receive credit for changing West Brom's recent fortunes and claiming some revenge over his former employers. However, his departure from the Anfield managerial hot seat was much needed, and the revenge won yesterday should prove to be little more than a minor pothole on Liverpool's long road back to domestic and European success.