Garcia fashions a more sophisticated Liverpool

Liverpool 3 - West Bromwich Albion 0
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The Independent Football

Life under Rafael Benitez took a decided turn for the better yesterday as a new-look Liverpool swept aside West Bromwich Albion with a convincing display of swift passing and intelligent movement.

Life under Rafael Benitez took a decided turn for the better yesterday as a new-look Liverpool swept aside West Bromwich Albion with a convincing display of swift passing and intelligent movement.

Luis Garcia, playing in the hole behind Djibril Cissé, was the chief architect on his home debut, delighting the home fans with his quick thinking and bright play.

Had the Spaniard's finishing been the equal of his approach play he might have had a hat-trick but, as it was, he still scored one and set up Steven Gerrard for the opener. In between Steve Finnan also found the target as Liverpool eased to their first clean sheet of the Premiership season.

Considering Benitez's predecessor, Gérard Houllier, was frequently accused of being excessively negative in his tactics, particularly at Anfield, it was surprising to see Liverpool line up with only one recognisable striker in Cissé.

Even the visitors managed to muster a forward pairing, and it must be encouraging for West Brom to have international players of the calibre of Zoltan Gera, Cosmin Contra and their latest acquisition, Robert Earnshaw, on the substitutes' bench.

With Milan Baros only a substitute, Garcia was pushed forward to play just behind Cissé, and his movement encouraged Liverpool to shift the ball around quickly and accurately. It seems likely Benitez will try to develop this more sophisticated style in time, and if he can involve the likes of Harry Kewell and Garcia in approach play as satisfyingly as was the case in the early stages of this match, Liverpool will surely prosper. If anything, the build-up was too intricate when the Australian found Garcia in the penalty area and he chose to cross when he should have shot.

It scarcely mattered because, on the quarter-hour, Garcia laid a ball into the path of Gerrard and the Liverpool captain scored his fifth goal of the season with a low shot into the corner.

The lead could have been doubled twice within a minute shortly afterwards. First Neil Clement's misjudged header forced Jonathan Greening to clear from the line, and from the resulting corner Sami Hyypia, unmarked, headed straight at Russell Hoult from eight yards.

Unfortunately Garcia's finishing did not match the quality of his approach play. When Gerrard found him alone in the six-yard box, he headed embarrassingly wide. Finnan, one of the beneficiaries of Benitez's reshuffle, put his team further ahead just before half-time. He won a physical duel with Paul Robinson on the right before cutting inside and beating Hoult at the near post.

West Brom gave a debut to Earnshaw, the £3.4m signing from Cardiff, early in the second half as they tried to find a way back into the game. But at this stage Liverpool were well on top and Garcia wasted another excellent chance, shooting wildly after a jinking run when a simple pass to Gerrard might have been a better idea.

He got the goal his performance deserved after another interchange with Gerrard. After his first attempt was blocked by Hoult, the Spaniard fired the rebound into the net.

Jason Koumas's drive and Clement's headers were the best West Brom could manage on what was a miserable afternoon for them on Merseyside. The suspicion remains they had caught Liverpool at a bad time.

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