West Bromwich Albion now have a Birmingham derby against Aston Villa, then Arsenal away and Bolton to look forward to. Portsmouth and Birmingham only added to the pressure with excellent results yesterday. Last year's miracle escapologists now seem to be slipping inexorably towards oblivion, after Robbie Fowler, now Liverpool's record goalscorer, and Djibril Cissé capitalised on defensive errors.
Robson tried to pretend that other teams' results are irrelevant, trotting out the cliché that, "It doesn't matter what other teams do". But he admitted that the players knew about the other results before the game and said: "We looked nervous from the kick-off - we were absolutely hopeless and had no conviction in the first half. If you play like that, you're going to get beat."
Too true. Though Cissé looked clearly offside when he crossed for Fowler to tap in the first goal on six minutes, he was nevertheless the beneficiary of poor defending by Paul Robinson. The left-back clean missed Xabi Alonso's long through-ball, allowing Cissé to run on and cross for Fowler to break Kenny Dalglish's scoring record with his 173rd Liverpool goal.
"It wasn't a defensive error because he was offside," claimed Robson, though the goal was typical of the way long balls from the Liverpool midfield proved too much for the Baggies defence.
With Liverpool dominating across the pitch, it was only a matter of time before the away team increased their lead and they did so on 37 minutes. Alonso was just outside his own box when he launched the ball hopefully forward. The woeful West Bromwich defence let it fall to Cissé, who kneed the ball around Tomasz Kuszczak and shot in from 10 yards to ensure half-time boos from the home fans.
Zoltan Gera came on for Diomansy Kamara at half-time and immediately made an impact. The Albion favourite, who has just returned from a long-term groin injury, had three impressive shots - a spectacular scissors-kick from Robinson's cross went straight at Jose Reina, after a delicate lob had just missed the post and the Liverpool keeper had saved a stinging volley.
It was a brave second-half performance from the home side, but Liverpool always looked like a team who have not lost at this ground since April 1982. The home side should have had a penalty, though, when the referee, Uriah Rennie, waved play on after Momo Sissoko looked to have clearly handled in the box in the dying minutes.
Their manager, Rafael Benitez, was just disappointed that they did not get a third goal. "We should have finished the game but it was difficult in the second half," he said. "They pushed up and put us under pressure, but we could have played easier balls. But I'm pleased."
The Liverpool manager congratulated Fowler on his record, but would not be drawn on whether he would offer him a new contract. "I'd like to see a few more of those in the future," he said. "We will decide on his future in a few weeks."
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