Match Report: Steven Gerrard fails from the spot for Liverpool on frustrating night against West Brom

Liverpool 0 West Bromwich Albion 2: Late goals stun Liverpool as Gerrard has penalty saved

Anfield

One point in six League matches, a third-round FA Cup exit, and then the whole sorry Peter Odemwingie saga. Since winning at Queen’s Park Rangers on Boxing Day, life has been pretty grim for West Bromwich Albion but last night that all changed. With Ben Foster showing the ability that made him an England goalkeeper and making a pivotal penalty save from Steven Gerrard after 77 minutes, Steve Clarke’s side went on to stage a smash-and grab raid as late goals from Gareth McAuley and Romelu Lukaku brought the visitors a first victory of the year.

This win had echoes of last season when Albion ended their 45-year wait to win at Anfield by riding their luck and then striking late. Their scorer that afternoon was the hero-turned-villain himself, Odemwingie, who travelled to Merseyside with the Albion squad but did not make the bench.

Without him, his team-mates showed an impressive togetherness and resolve as they ended Liverpool’s recent resurgence and got their own campaign back on track. For Clarke, returning to the club he left last summer after 18 months as assistant manager, it was a deeply satisfying conclusion. “For a change something went right,” he said. “It’s not been the best year so far.”

In truth, an Albion win looked unlikely for much of this fixture and had Gerrard converted his spot-kick, Liverpool would have probably been celebrating a fourth straight home success. Brendan Rodgers’ team may not have reached the performance levels shown in their recent encouraging draws at Arsenal and Manchester City but they still did enough to bring the very best out of Foster. The visitors’ keeper had already made one outstanding one-handed save from Gerrard in the second half when, on the pre-match advice of his coach Dean Kiely, he dived low to his left to turn away Liverpool’s captain’s penalty, after the midfielder had gone for precision rather than power.

Even Rodgers suggested it had been “a bit harsh” of referee Jon Moss to penalise Jonas Olsson when he jumped for a high ball and Luis Suarez crumpled beneath him in the box. Justice was done with the save and West Bromwich now had the momentum. “When he made that save from the penalty that should never have been given it gave us a bit of positive momentum and belief to go and win the game,” Clarke said. They duly did just that.

Pepe Reina had not made a save up to then but now Youssouf Mulumbu broke forward and unleashed a drive that the Liverpool goalkeeper tipped over. The reprieve was brief as from Chris Brunt’s corner, McAuley leapt high and powered a header in off the underside of the crossbar. Liverpool’s fate was sealed in the 90th minute when James Morrison broke forward and fed substitute Lukaku who held off Daniel Agger before driving past Reina.

The consequence of it all was Albion climbed a place above Liverpool into eighth. Had Liverpool won, they would have moved within three points of sixth-placed Everton but they have still to beat a top-10 team this season – a staggering statistic – and their hopes of a late push for the Champions League now look in tatters.

They certainly missed Daniel Sturridge, who was unable to continue his eye-catching start to life in a red shirt owing to a thigh injury. In his place stepped Jonjo Shelvey, who had an early effort flagged offside in an otherwise subdued start. Anfield felt flat and although Agger went close with a free header from a corner and then failed to connect with Stewart Downing’s driven cross when unmarked in front of goal, the closest we got to a first-half goal was actually when Steven Reid took a careless swipe at a Shelvey cross inside the six-yard box. He was a relieved man when, having kicked the ball against his standing leg, it looped just over the crossbar.

Albion were well-organised in defence and competed manfully in midfield where Clarke was delighted to welcome back Mulumbu for his first appearance since returning from Africa Cup of Nations duty with DR Congo. Mulumbu’s partnership with Claudio Yacob was pivotal to their  impressive autumn efforts and Clarke noted: “It is the first time in a number of weeks I have had the luxury to be able to pick Youssouf, Claudio and James [Morrison] in the same midfield.”

All the same, Foster emerged as their hero as Liverpool stepped up a gear in the second half. In the 49th minute he foiled Gerrard at close range after McAuley had blocked a Downing shot, and moments later was equal to a Jordan Henderson backheel. A full-length block then stopped substitute Fabio Borini’s shot before he produced the save of the night, raising his right hand to beat away Gerrard’s powerful drive before Borini turned the rebound wide.

“It was just one of those games where we needed the first goal,” said Rodgers. “We weren’t at our best but we were on the front foot and looking to create.

“Ben Foster has made some brilliant saves that have kept them in the game,” the Liverpool manager added.

On this form it must be a matter of regret for England that Foster retired from international football in 2011. He rejected Roy Hodgson’s attempts to entice him back into the England set-up last May and Clarke said: “There is absolutely no reason he cannot play international football apart from the most important one – he doesn’t want to.”

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'