Liverpool: Liverpool crashed to a dismal 2-0 defeat against West Bromwich Albion on Monday as Steven Gerrard’s penalty miss triggered an Anfield meltdown.
Brendan Rodgers’ side looked set to secure their first win in four Premier League matches when Gerrard stepped up to take a late penalty, but the Liverpool captain’s effort was saved by Ben Foster and Albion went on to take full advantage of that escape.
Gareth McAuley headed the opener with nine minutes remaining and Romelu Lukaku’s stoppage-time strike secured Albion’s first league victory in seven attempts and lifted them above Liverpool into eighth in the table.
“The players gave everything, but we just couldn’t make the breakthrough and the longer it goes on, it gives West Brom a wee bit more encouragement,” Rodgers said.
“I can’t fault the players. We weren’t at our best but we certainly were on the front foot. We just needed that first goal.”
Albion’s third successive win against Liverpool was also sweet revenge for manager Steve Clarke, who was the Reds’ assistant manager under Kenny Dalglish last season before being sacked at the end of the campaign.
“Since the turn of the year things haven’t gone our way, so it’s a terrific win for us,” Clarke said.
“To come here and play a Liverpool team, probably playing as well as they have all season, I’m absolutely delighted for the players.”
Liverpool made the running for most of the match without ever hitting peak form.
They had the ball in the net early on when Foster failed to deal with a long-range dipping Glen Johnson effort and Jonjo Shelvey pounced to tap in the rebound, only for the linesman to correctly rule the midfielder offside.
Daniel Agger then went close with a header from a Stewart Downing corner but Foster tipped the Danish defender’s effort over the crossbar.
Rodgers’ side became increasingly desperate as the half wore on and Luis Suarez appealed in vain for a penalty after the Liverpool striker tumbled when challenged by McAuley.
Liverpool tried to up the tempo in the second half and Jordan Henderson almost rounded off a flowing move with a clever backheel that Foster blocked with his legs.
The Reds kept pressing and Downing laid the ball off to Fabio Borini, who tested Foster with a curling low shot that the former Manchester United keeper did well to keep out.
Gerrard also forced Foster into a fine one-handed stop to prevent the England captain’s powerful effort hitting the back of the net.
The hosts’ pressure finally seemed to have paid off when Suarez went down in the Albion penalty area under pressure from Jonas Olsson in the 75th minute.
West Brom’s players were unhappy but referee Jon Moss was quick to award the penalty.
Gerrard stepped up to take it, but his low strike wasn’t hit with enough power, allowing Foster to plunge to his left and make the save.
Rodgers tried to spark Liverpool back into life by sending on Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho for his debut, but it was Albion who stole the points.
Youssouf Mulumbu’s stinging drive forced Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina to concede a corner in the 81st minute and from Chris Brunt’s set-piece, McAuley rose highest to power his header past Reina via the crossbar.
As Liverpool poured forward in search of an equaliser they were left exposed at the back in stoppage-time.
James Morrison released Lukaku and the on-loan Chelsea forward showed impressive pace and power to surge clear of Agger before driving his shot through Reina’s weak attempted save.