Liverpool profited from first half goals by Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll, easing past West Brom at the Hawthorns. Former manager Roy Hodgson bore witness to the progress the Reds have made since his January dismissal. The 2-0 win moves them up to fifth place in the English Premier League.
The Baggies downed the Reds 2-1 in last season's corresponding league game in April. Hodgson has fashioned them into a cohesive unit and the results have been the best in the club's history. His plan may have been to stifle and frustrate the Liverpool attack, but that went by the wayside in the early goings.
Commentators will wonder what could have become of this game were it not for Adam's early goal. In the ninth minute, Luis Suarez won a penalty when midfielder Jerome Thomas fouled him on the far side of the area. It was an unnecessary challenge by the West Brom player, as Suarez had his back to goal and no supporting teammates at the moment of contact.
The referee's assistant was adamant that there was a foul and the spot-kick was given, despite the home team's protests. Adam slotted it low to goalkeeper Ben Foster's left and Liverpool took the lead.
The Reds were always looking to control possession and create more chances than their hosts. The early lead gave them the confidence to do just that, knowing another goal would all but bury their opponents. West Brom was inept going forward and it seemed only a colossal error would give them a chance to make the game a competitive one.
With home supporters praying for a positive response, Liverpool continued to push forward. As was the case in nearly every game this season, the Reds out-passed, out-possessed and out-classed their opponents in the first half.
What made this game different was Carroll's goal in first half stoppage time. The move started when Lucas played a perfect first-time pass to the ever-dangerous Suarez from deep in the midfield to the far right. The Uruguayan's first-time delivery to Carroll was every bit as good as the pass he received, and it sent the England international toward Foster's goal in a one-on-one situation.
Carroll deftly finished underneath the onrushing keeper and gave the Reds their just rewards for a first half that they controlled.
"It was nice to score," Carroll said. "I've been missing a few games, sitting on the bench, so it's nice to get my chance and put one in the back of the net. I know I'm capable of doing what I do."
Taking a two-goal lead into the break dealt a fatal blow to the Baggies. They remained under constant pressure for much of the second half as Carroll and Suarez combined well and constantly threatened Foster’s goal.
There was a sense of change in the Liverpool team after Wednesday's comeback victoy over Stoke City. The mental fragility that highlighted early season games — and led to dropped points — was invisible to the naked eye Saturday.
It was only in the last 15 minutes that West Brom pushed forward, but it was too late by then. Liverpool out-classed their opponents and left with a deserved three points. The result pleased Kenny Dalglish the most.
"I thought we played really well, we thoroughly deserved to win the game and some of the football we played was fantastic," he said after the game. "A clean sheet is very pleasing, it helps you to get something from a game, but goals win you games, so I think from Pepe through to everyone we played really well."
The result was satisfactory, but the performance may not have been complete. Adam cited the fact that Liverpool lost some of its drive in the second half. Supporters are still waiting on that comprehensive, 90-minute show of quality and professionalism that past performances have hinted is on its way.
"I thought we played well in the first half." He said. "Second half, we never kept the ball as well as we should have and it's something that we'll maybe have to get better at."
Liverpool's next game is next Saturday when it hosts newly-promoted Swansea City with EPL points on the line.
See our Liverpool Live Blog for a look at the action as it happened.
Photo courtesy of LiverpoolFC.tv