Apr 2, 2011

West Brom 2-1 Liverpool

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Roy Hodgson relished the satisfaction of victory against Liverpool as Chris Brunt's late penalty gave West Bromwich Albion a crucial triumph against the club that sacked him after a short Anfield reign.

Hodgson was dismissed in January after only 191 days in charge at Liverpool - and while he insisted revenge was not on his agenda, there may just have been extra pleasure in the manner in which Albion earned three priceless points in their battle to stay in the Premier League.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish greeted his predecessor warmly before kick-off in front of a bank of photographers.

Martin Skrtel gave the visitors the advantage with a header five minutes after the break.

But Liverpool's defence, reshuffled after losing Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger to injury in the first half, was always vulnerable to the pace and direct approach of Albion striker Peter Odemwingie.

And he was the pivotal figure as Albion earned two penalties, both converted by skipper Brunt to secure the win that extended Hodgson's unbeaten run as Hawthorns boss to six games and pushed the Baggies up to 12th in the table.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos was penalised for pulling Odemwingie down after 62 minutes, although the defender appeared to make contact with the ball. Odemwingie was fouled again by Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina two minutes from time to allow Brunt to repeat the punishment and send The Hawthorns wild.

Red letter day for West Brom - Hodgson

Liverpool's Luis Suarez - whose energetic and threatening display was in sharp contrast to his listless £35m strike partner Andy Carroll - almost forced an equaliser twice in the dying seconds but Albion held on for a hard-earned win.

And while the scars on Hodgson's reputation as a result of his ill-starred stay at Anfield will take time to heal, he was afforded a great reception from Albion fans at the final whistle.

Liverpool, in the continued absence of captain Steven Gerrard following a groin operation, were unchanged, with Carroll and Suarez paired up front.

The continuity Dalglish hoped his selection would afford was soon disrupted when Johnson pulled up with a hamstring problem early on and was replaced by Kyrgiakos. Agger followed suit later in the half with what looked like a knee injury, forcing Dalglish to introduce Danny Wilson.

Carroll endured a frustrating first 45 minutes in which he allowed himself to become distracted by the close attentions of Albion's defenders and the taunts of the home support. He was booked for a lunge at Steven Reid in the area before receiving two further lectures from referee Martin Atkinson.

Albion posed what threats there were in a low-key opening 45 minutes as Liverpool keeper Reina saved Reid's low header and had to be alert to turn away a deflection off Skrtel as the ball flew towards his own goal.

Skrtel's sense of direction was more accurate as he powered Liverpool into the lead five minutes after half-time, beating Paul Scharner in an aerial challenge to head in Raul Meireles' corner.

Injuries and mistakes costly - Dalglish

Brunt had already tested Reina even before Skrtel's opener and Albion were not discouraged by the setback of falling behind, with the winger again testing the keeper with a powerful effort.

Suarez was a constant threat with his direct running and he was furious with team-mate Dirk Kuyt for shooting straight at Albion keeper Scott Carson when he was free inside the area.

Albion drew level just after the hour when referee Atkinson pointed to the spot when Kyrgiakos tangled with Odemwingie in the area. The Greek defender appeared to get a touch on the ball but Brunt accepted the decision gratefully to slam an emphatic penalty past Reina.

The lift of that equaliser prompted Albion to carry the fight to a lacklustre Liverpool - and their ambition was rewarded with that dramatic late winner.

Kyrgiakos never looked comfortable challenging with Odemwingie under a high ball and when he inevitably lost the battle, Reina tripped the Albion forward as he attempted to round the keeper. Brunt's penalty was as confidently dispatched as his first.

As the game entered three minutes of stoppage time, and with Reina joining the fray for a corner, Suarez twice came close to earning Liverpool a point.

Carson saved magnificently from his low shot and Nicky Shorey scrambled back towards the goal-line to head away his lob as it looked destined to drop in.

Seconds later, Hodgson had the victory that will give him so much satisfaction as Albion took a stride towards Premier League safety.



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