•Adam Lallana scored his first goal for Liverpool to give the home side the lead on the stroke of half time
•West Brom equalised after half time thanks to a Saido Berahino penalty
•Jordan Henderson scored the winner for Liverpool just after the hour mark to give Brendan Rodgers’ side the win
•Mario Balotelli was left on the bench but came on in the second half as a replacement for Rickie Lambert
Striker Mario Balotelli’s demotion to the bench coincided with Liverpool’s first win in four Barclays Premier Lague matches, but other factors contributed to the 2-1 victory over West Brom.
Adam Lallana’s first goal for the club and a cool finish from Jordan Henderson, capping an impressive second-half individual performance, took some of the focus off the misfiring Italy international who came in for some criticism from manager Brendan Rodgers this week.
It was far from straight forward as Saido Berahino’s fourth goal in three matches made things uncomfortable just after half-time.
Rodgers made a bold decision in dropping his €20 million signing from AC Milan after just one goal and some less-than-impressive displays in seven appearances.
In the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge, still not fit from a thigh injury sustained on England duty which has ruled him out of next week’s Euro 2016 qualifiers, the only other option was to hand Rickie Lambert, making the 550th appearance of his career, his first league start for the club he rejoined in the summer.
While it did not pay off in terms of goal threat he did at least provide a greater work-rate up front, closing down the opponent in possession, but looked short of confidence and sharpness. A couple of half-chances came his way which he would most likely have buried first time during his Southampton days, but the burden of responsibility is greater at Anfield and he almost always took a second touch which invariably gave defenders that split-second to recover.
His best attempt was parried by goalkeeper Ben Foster after his England team-mate had instantly killed Martin Skrtel’s long pass out of defence and rattled off a shot.
The ploy of playing Philippe Coutinho deeper, almost alongside Steven Gerrard on occasions, meant the Brazil international saw plenty of the ball but he has yet to rediscover his knack of playing the pass which unlocks defences.
A positive aspect of the tweak to the formation was Henderson getting further forward, putting him in a position to contribute both offensively and defensively as he was the one, along with Lambert, who provided the energy to press the opponent in possession. But the 24-year-old is much more than a willing runner and it was his touch and vision which laid on the assist for the goal a minute before half-time.
The build-up involved two delicious backheels, one from Lallana which gave him the extra yard to change direction and drive into the penalty area where he exchanged passes with Henderson, who produced the second neat flick, before firing low across Foster and inside the far post.
To be fair to West Brom the goal came against the run of play as it was they and not the hosts who had knocked the ball about confidently and created the better chances.
The best of which saw the impressive Berahino plant a free header over the crossbar from Sebastien Pocognoli’s cross and force Simon Mignolet to parry a fierce shot after Javi Manquillo’s backpass fell short.
Questions have been asked of Liverpool’s goalkeeper this season, particularly considering their vulnerability at set-pieces, but twice when he came for corners he punched clear.
He was given little chance with West Brom’s equaliser, however, as referee Mike Oliver ruled Dejan Lovren had brought down Berahino inside the area and the Baggies forward picked himself up to fire home from the spot.
Oliver was in no mood to given Sterling a penalty when he appeared to be barged over by Craig Gardener but the winger staggered to his feet and cut the ball back to Henderson who side-footed home for his first goal since March 30.
Lambert departed, along with Manquillo, as Balotelli and Glen Johnson — back from a thigh injury — came on and the Italy international soon curled a low shot just wide of Foster’s left-hand post.
A late move saw Coutinho replaced by Lucas Leiva, freeing Gerrard to revisit the number 10 role he played so well for so long before assuming his deep-lying role in an attempt to bring the best out of Balotelli. That may need some work, however, as aside from one long-range shot the Italian’s only other chance came in added time when Foster saved with his legs at his near post.
via Irish times