Three points lost, and a trio of players too, this was one of the darker days of Kenny Dalglish's generally sunny second coming at Liverpool, especially as Steven Gerrard was among the latter. Unlike Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger, who both pulled up lame, Gerrard did not even get on to the pitch, having broken down in training on Friday as he prepared to return from his groin operation. Gerrard was sore enough yesterday for Liverpool to book him in for a scan this week. "He felt a sharp pain, it's not the same injury, but it is in the same area," said Dalglish.
Injuries, however, did not fully account for the way Liverpool were outplayed yesterday as the interloper beat the legend. In defeating the man who replaced him Roy Hodgson gained a small modicum of revenge for the way he was forced out of Anfield earlier this season, not that he said that publicly. More important for the West Bromwich Albion manager, however, was the effect it had on the League table, and will have on his players.
"There's no extra pleasure in beating Liverpool because I made a lot of friends there, but there is pleasure in beating a club we don't beat very often," said Hodgson. Albion last defeated Liverpool in 1981.
Victory lifted Albion four points clear of the bottom three and into a heady 12th place. The fact that they won after trailing with half-an-hour to go should provide a similar lift to their self-belief. For Liverpool, this was a bitter defeat, incurred through two penalties, both won by Peter Odemwingie, both converted by Chris Brunt, and both disputed. The first was conceded by Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who argued he got something on the ball before Odemwingie tumbled; the second by Pepe Reina who complained that the Nigerian had dived over him.
Dalglish was relatively sanguine. "You can discuss penalty decisions as long as you like but you'll never convince someone who holds a different view," he said. Dalglish was more disgruntled about the fact the referee's assistant gave the second decision despite Martin Atkinson being reasonably close. However, given that assistant was Mike Mullarkey, who officiated at the World Cup last summer, Atkinson's deference was understandable. "I thought they were as clear a penalty as you are ever likely to see, if you don't get penalties for that they might as well not exist," said Hodgson
Hodgson and Dalglish exchanged warm greetings pre-match – the Scot does not take personally Hodgson's view that he had no chance of success at Anfield with Dalglish having also applied for the post. The Liverpool fans were less welcoming, displaying a banner that read: "Thanks for the grey hair Roy".
Aside from the £50m front pair the Liverpool team would have been familiar to Hodgson right down to the absence of Gerrard. Almost as significant was the injury suffered by Johnson in the fifth minute – a torn hamstring according to the defender's tweet. Dalglish reshuffled, moving Agger across with Kyrgiakos coming on to play in the centre where he would eventually be given a torrid time by Odemwingie. Sixteen minutes later Agger limped off with a knee problem. Danny Wilson became the Reds third left-back of the day, and was soon booked for hauling back the tricky Odemwingie.
Carroll meanwhile, was getting isolated, frustrated and booked. "You're only here for the drinks," jeered the Albion fans, something he can expect a lot of, thanks to Fabio Capello going public on his "refuelling issues".
In a prosaic first half Martin Skrtel was relieved to see Reina save his misdirected header. The Slovakian returned his radar to head Liverpool in front five minutes after the break, rising above Paul Scharner to meet Raul Meireles' corner.
That prompted Liverpool's best spell but Dirk Kuyt spurned a chance to double their lead before Brunt levelled. Albion's winner followed a long hoofed clearance by Jonas Olsson that Odemwingie beat Kyrgiakos to before winning the second spot-kick. In a frantic finale Scott Carson deniedMeireles and Luis Suarez, Skrtel headed wide and Nicky Shorey cleared off the line from Suarez.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Odemwingie
Match rating: 7/10