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.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam