WBA 0 Liverpool 2: Robson in the zone of 'harsh reality'

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The Independent Online

Robbie Fowler ensured his Anfield cult status by overtaking Kenny Dalglish on the list of all-time Liverpool scorers, and in the process ensured that West Bromwich Albion have been sucked into the relegation battle they so desperately wanted to avoid.

Fowler's 173rd goal for the club, a sixth-minute tap-in from a low Djibril Cissé cross, took him past Dalglish into fifth on the Liverpool list. "It's fantastic for me but Kenny Dalglish is a proper Liverpool legend," said the striker who returned from Manchester City in January. "To get anywhere near him is an achievement, so to go one past him makes me very happy."

Fowler may not be a Liverpool legend in the Dalglish mode - too much touchline-sniffing for that - but the 31-year-old, who started at Liverpool at 18 and was soon nicknamed "God", is none the less every inch an Anfield icon.

Despite the hero worship of his prodigal striker, the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, would not say whether Fowler would be offered a new contract in the summer. "He needs a few more goals this year. We won't decide on his future now. We will make a decision in a few weeks."

Fowler's goal punished a West Bromwich side who had looked nervous from the kick-off after learning that Portsmouth had beaten Fulham and Birmingham had held Chelsea to a draw at St Andrew's.

"We never started - we were edgy from the beginning and we never recovered in the first half," said their manager, Bryan Robson, though he would not admit that results elsewhere had affected his team's play.

West Brom improved in the second half, with substitute Zoltan Gera their inspiration on his return from long-term injury, and should have had a penalty when Momo Sissoko handled in the box in the dying minutes. But the damage had been done by a woeful first half that embarrassed the home defenders - both goals came from long balls by Xabi Alonso which should have been easily dealt with.

For the first, Alonso's pass from midfield was clean-missed by left-back Paul Robinson, allowing Cissé to run towards goal and find Fowler, who looked like he was in an offside position.

Cissé scored an inevitable second goal on 37 minutes, running straight on to Alonso's 50-yard pass and rounding Tomasz Kuszczak.

In contrast to the miracle escape of last year, West Brom now look like they might be overtaken in the final straight after taking just a point from good performances against Birmingham, Manchester United and Spurs in recent weeks. "The harsh reality has hit home that we are going to be in the relegation zone," said Robson, who has Aston Villa, Arsenal and Bolton coming up.

"When you have a run of games against top teams, you're going to get a performance that isn't so good. That's why it concerns you - when you play well and don't get results, it worries you, because what happens when you do play badly?"

Goals: Fowler (6) 0-1, Cissé (37) 0-2.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Robinson, Davies, Watson (Clement, 61), Albrechtsen; Greening, Wallwork, Johnson, Kamara (Gera, h-t); Ellington, Kanu (Campbell, 61). Substitutes not used: Kozak (gk), Hoult.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Riise, Carragher, Hyypia, Finnan; Kewell, Alonso, Sissoko, Cissé (Kronkamp, 77); Crouch (Morientes, 70), Fowler (Garcia, 64). Substitutes not used: Dudek (gk), Warnock.

Referee: U Rennie (South Yorkshire).

Man of the match: Cissé (Liverpool).

Attendance: 27,576.

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