Any hope Kenny Dalglish harboured about quelling the diving debate surrounding Luis Suarez seemed doomed after Albion's Paul Scharner offered his thoughts on the Uruguayan's knack of winning penalties.
Television replays suggested Suarez had been the beneficiary of nothing more sinister than some generous refereeing in gaining the ninth-minute spot kick, from which Charlie Adam put Liverpool ahead, but Scharner took a less magnanimous view. The Austrian midfielder said that, when it comes to securing decisions in his favour in opposition penalty areas, Suarez is "one of the best on the planet."
"It was a nice dive for the penalty," Scharner said, after referee Lee Mason, advised by his assistant, decided Jerome Thomas had brought Suarez down in what Albion manager Roy Hodgson claimed was a fair attempt to screen the ball.
Scharner also agreed with Sir Alex Ferguson's comment, made after Manchester United's draw at Liverpool two weeks ago, that Suarez "dives all over the place."
"Yes, he's very good at winning penalties. He's one of the best on the planet, in fact," Scharner said.
"I had a good view of it. If that's a penalty, then you will find 1500 penalties are given in every match. I know it was the assistant – maybe he had a better view than the referee. But everyone in our dressing room felt that [it was a soft decision]."
Scharner's remarks came a week after Suarez was denied a penalty against Norwich by a referee who thought he dived and days after Dalglish, mindful of Ferguson's criticism, tried to defend the striker by highlighting an incident during Liverpool's Carling Cup win at Stoke in midweek, when Suarez suffered an injury, Dalglish said, because he tried to stay on his feet.
Dalglish might be better advised to impress on Suarez – still playing in the shadow of accusations of racial vilification, levelled by United's Patrice Evra – that what might be seen by some audiences as admirably cunning tends to be regarded otherwise by English fans. The penny may drop eventually, as it did, he might recall, for Didier Drogba.
In the meantime, the debate remains a distraction, which is a pity because Liverpool, even with Gerrard still struggling for fitness, are beginning to resemble a force. The England midfielder, who has made only two starts since his six-month lay-off following a groin operation, has an ankle infection due to be assessed today.
In his absence, Adam has grown in authority. He and Lucas Leiva dominated central midfield and Liverpool created enough chances for many more goals had Suarez and Andy Carroll been more efficient. As it was, after Leiva took advantage of Jonas Olsson's poorly taken free-kick, Carroll scored his third goal of the season just before half-time and Liverpool were comfortable.