Benitez defends fight club

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

West Bromwich 0 Liverpool 2

The facts, to use Rafael Benitez's favoured currency, were always stacked against West Bromwich Albion yesterday. They had lost the previous 11 tussles with Liverpool, failing even to score in all seven Premier League meetings, and a continuation of both sequences confirmed relegation from the top flight for the third time in seven seasons.

Goals either side of half-time, by Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt, disabused a raucously defiant Hawthorns crowd of dreams of another "Great Escape". But it was not one of Liverpool's more dignified days. After the match, Benitez sourly refused to congratulate Sir Alex Ferguson on Manchester United's title success, while Jamie Carragher and the Spaniard Alvaro Arbeloa earlier squared up to each other after a misunderstanding in their penalty area.

The Liverpool manager was offered two opportunities to state whether he would be sending a "well done" letter to Ferguson, yet declined them both. "I say congratulations to United because they have won it, and that's it," he said pointedly. "I prefer just to say, 'Well done' to the club. Normally you have to be respectful to the other manager, but during the season we have seen a lot of things I don't like."

Pressed on whether he regarded a 19th year without the championship as a failure, Benitez hailed Liverpool's haul of 83 points as "massive" – it is the club's best since the Premier League launched in 1992 – before returning to his apparent obsession with United and all their "£20m and £30m players". He added: "They have a strong, very big squad and won a lot of games 1-0. Next season could be different."

The altercation between Carragher and Arbeloa, which came 10 minutes from time, suggested morale within the Anfield camp is not all it might be. In scenes reminiscent of the altercation between Stoke colleagues Ricardo Fuller and Andy Griffin in December, Xabi Alonso and Daniel Agger had to separate the pair as they jostled.

Benitez, showing the spin-doctoring skill of Westminster, claimed the incident showed "a positive message in terms of our mentality". It happened, he said, because of the players' desperation to keep a clean sheet and finish runners-up.

Albion, inspired by Jonathan Greening, opened with a conviction absent for most of the season, whereas Liverpool began flatly after seeing United match their total of 18 titles 24 hours earlier. The home side had last scored against Liverpool in 1986, yet had chances to amend that damning fact before Benitez's men got their bearings. In the fifth minute, Chris Brunt's corner found Greening unmarked beyond the far post.

His first shot was parried by Pepe Reina, who kept out the follow-up with his legs. Greening's deft touch, prominent throughout, is not shared by Shelton Martis, the Netherlands Antilles international bought for £50,000 from the manager, Tony Mowbray's, former club Hibernian. Martis's wretched control when under no pressure allowed Gerrard to steal the ball and advance before beating Dean Kiely for his 24th goal of the season.

The veteran keeper, preferred to Scott Carson, tipped a Fernando Torres header on to the bar as Liverpool grew in assurance, but was helpless when Kuyt took Gerrard's sublime angled pass, cut inside Jonas Olsson and put salvation firmly out of Albion's reach with an emphatic finish.

The impression that Albion are fated never to score against Liverpool again was underlined when Luke Moore's shot shook a post and Marc-Antoine Fortuné sent a free header over the bar. "You've won f*** all, and that's a fact," roared the home supporters. "You're going down, and that's a fact," came the riposte.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-1-1): Kiely; Zuiverloon, Martis (Valero, 57), Olsson, Donk; Brunt, Koren, Mulumbu (Moore, 68), Greening; Menseguez; Fortune. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Teixeira, Meite, Simpson, Wood.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Insua; Lucas, Mascherano (Alonso, 51); Kuyt, Gerrard, Benayoun (Ngog, 73); Torres (Babel, 69). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Dossena, Riera, Skrtel.

Referee: M Atkinson (Yorkshire).

Booked: West Bromwich Greening, Olsson.

Man of the match: Greening.

Attendance: 26,138.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn