Liverpool 1 West Bromwich 0: Pole beaten at last - by Anfield beanpole

Goalkeeper's heroics keep form side at bay but Crouch suddenly just can't stop scoring
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The Independent Football

Will this man never stop scoring? Peter Crouch is getting boring now. He couldn't miss a frying pan with a cow's arse.

Not that Liverpool are complaining as their 10th League win in a row - their best streak since 1982 - was duly notched up after their big man's seventh goal in as many games broke down a shamelessly negative West Brom side who were only spared a mauling because of their goalkeeper's heroics.

In complete contrast, at the other end Jose Reina had the quietest New Year's Eve in Liverpool. But then that was merely in keeping with what has become the norm on Merseyside. It is now almost 11 hours since the Anfield home goal has been breached in the League, hardly surprising when the traffic is heading so monotonously the other way.

So how come there was only one in it, then? Simple - Tomasz Kuszczak. "We did all the things you are supposed to do to win a game," said Rafael Benitez. "But it was almost impossible to score against that goalkeeper. He had one of the games of his life."

Indeed, for a while it seemed like 1973 all over again, and there is more than just his Polish nation-ality and an overwhelming mixture of "zs" and "ks" that reminds one of Jan Tomaszewski. Kuszczak is unorthodox, but also highly effective, as highlighted by a series of showstoppers that all but brought an iron curtain down on Liverpool.

First to try to lift it was the impressive Harry Kewell with one effort in the 14th minute that Kuszczak theatrically tipped over and another, a minute later, from 12 yards out and through a crowd of bodies, that was steered away with a sumptuous reflex, one-handed save.

Up stepped John Arne Riise in the 22nd minute, but the left-back's strike could only find post and the resulting follow-up from Kewell could only find East European glove. When Stephen Gerrard's pile-driver in the 36th minute met the same fate, West Brom were hoping for a point that had seemed more unlikely by the attack, by the minute.

But just as a tall order was looking eminently conquerable, along came the beanpole. Indeed, Crouch is an elf in reverse; he likes to do all his work after Christmas. At Southampton last season, for instance, 13 of his 16 goals came after the holiday, and the same looks like coming true in this campaign.

The manner in which he rose - or rather lifted his heels slightly - to head Kewell's cross into the far corner in the 51st minute, suggested a striker who is only just beginning to find his groove.

"It was a terrific, terrific header," conceded the West Brom manager, Bryan Robson. And Crouch's repertoire doesn't end there. At one stage here he was even seen perfecting a bicycle kick. Still, there appears no other way around Kuszczak apart from the spectacular when he is in this mood.

In the 73rd minute, Crouch's perfectly placed downward header was superbly deflected away from the corner by the keeper's leg, although by then Anfield was getting well used to it. In the 64th minute they had watched agog as Riise's thunderous free-kick was pawed away by their burgeoning nemesis and they were to go on to see Gerrard and Florent Sinama-Pongolle similarly denied. Kuszczak is one bold acquaintance Liverpool will not be forgetting.

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