Football: Coca-Cola Cup - Berger and Fowler enjoy Reds' show of strenth

West Bromwich Albion 0 Liverpool 2
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The Independent Online
In Liverpool's case, the Czech that counted was Patrik Berger, who added to his hat-trick against Chelsea with a second-half goal. Robbie Fowler, with a masterly strike 90 seconds from time, confirmed their passage to the fourth round of the Coca-Cola Cup.

For Albion, outclassed yet seldom outfought, a cheque for pounds 300,000 as their share of record receipts and television fees can only aid their efforts to climb out of the First Division.

The League Cup - which Albion's manager, Ray Harford, won with Luton nine years ago - remains the only trophy Anfield has welcomed during Roy Evans' reign. So the Liverpool manager may have been less tempted than some of his contemporaries to field a weakened side.

Paul Ince was missing after his bloody heroics in Rome, allowing Steve McManaman to don the captain's armband. However, there was no obvious diminution of power as the red shirts put Albion under siege from the start.

Alan Miller's goal led a charmed life in the opening half hour, when his defenders struggled to contain the dribbling prowess of McManaman and Berger. The latter might have scored with less than two minutes gone but Miller, having spilled his drive, atoned by bravely blocking Fowler's follow-up.

The near-misses flowed thick and fast. A Fowler header struck the bar; Miller sliced his clearance and was lucky to see it bobble wide; Karlheinz Riedle also sent a diving header narrowly over before materialising in what looked suspiciously like an offside position to steer Jamie Carragher's shot against a post.

Albion, who still had more than an hour to endure at that juncture, relied on the pace and persistence of Paul Peschisolido for their counter-attacking threat. Put through by Ian Hamilton in the 10th minute, the Canadian shook off Bjorn Tore Kvarme only for David Jones to hold his shot.

A superb fingertip save from Neil Ruddock enabled Miller to hold out until half-time, but Albion survived only a further six minutes. McManaman, having done well to keep possession by the corner flag, fed Fowler who cut a pass back from the dead-ball line for Berger, with a characteristically well-timed late run, to sidefoot into the far corner from 15 yards.

The goal took some of the tension out of the contest, which doubtless suited Oyvind Leonhardsen. The Norwegian, bought from Wimbledon during the summer, was able to ease himself into the midfield on his long-awaited Liverpool debut after replacing the injured Carragher for the second half.

Lacking the driving force normally supplied by Ince, Liverpool let their grip loosen rather too much. James, emulating Miller's earlier miskick, and Kvarme, instantly aping his keeper, inadvertently whipped up a crowd who were seemingly resigned to defeat.

The arrival of some support for Peschisolido in the shape of Lee Hughes ensured that Liverpool were put through a torrid spell before Fowler sealed victory. James did well to lay hands on a Hughes header and made another fine diving stop to prevent Richard Sneekes' rasping drive.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Miller; Holmes, Burgess, Raven, (Dobson, 43) Smith; Flynn (Butler, 83), Hamilton, Sneekes, Kilbane; Taylor (Hughes, 60), Peschisolido.

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; McAteer, Kvarme Ruddock, Bjornebye; Berger (Harkness, 80), Thomas, Carragher (Leonhardsen, h/t), McManaman; Riedle, Fowler. Substitute not used: Owen.

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

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