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Lucky omens count for nothing

FanZoner Tom Reed looks at West Brom's smash-and-grab win at Anfield - a night when Liverpool's 'lucky' red and gold strip counted for nothing.

Last Updated: 19/02/13 at 11:51 Post Comment

Liverpool: Undone by Albion at Anfield

Liverpool: Undone by Albion at Anfield

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There's no better place outside of Asia to celebrate Chinese New Year than Liverpool's China Town. Indeed, with their red and gold strip Liverpool had all the lucky omens in their favour going into the match with West Brom at Anfield.

In Chinese culture red is lucky whilst gold represents wealth and fans of the Merseyside club hoped that John Henry's investment would continue to translate to good fortune on the pitch.

The Baggies (in their blue and white kit) couldn't rely on helping hands in ending their away hoodoo, though, in the Chinese year of the snake all eyes were on Peter Odemwingie after his slimy advances towards QPR.

In contrast, while Odemwingie was labelled a "snake in the grass" after his crass attempts at forcing a move to Loftus Road, Jamie Carragher, the other man in the spotlight, was given public acclamation for his service to Liverpool FC after announcing his decision to retire at the end of the season.

How galling then for the old school West Brom gaffer Steve Clarke to see his maligned striker under the spotlight on a night where the thorough professionalism of "Mr Liverpool" Carragher was celebrated.

Odemwingie travelled with the West Brom squad but was denied a place in the matchday 18. Scotsman Clarke would have been uneasy about West Brom's five defeats in their last six League matches and the statistic that the Baggies hadn't won a Monday night top-flight fixture since 1969. Not that Brendan Rodgers could rest easy with the memories of the 3-0 first day Premier League defeat at The Hawthorns.

Liverpool were devoid of Daniel Sturridge, the forward failing to recover from his thigh injury, while Rodgers explained Raheem Stirling's absence in terms of not "overloading" the young winger. The Baggies welcomed back Congolese defensive midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu whilst Liam Ridgewell replaced the banned Goran Popov.

Popov had been censured for a spit spat with Kyle Walker but it was Liverpool who were spitting mad after an early Jonjo Shelvey effort pierced the Baggies net, only to be disallowed for offside. Both sides took to the field with 4-2-3-1 formations putting high emphasis on accuracy of passing and the movement of lone forwards Luis Suarez and Shane Long.

Liverpool had good reason to be wary of the Tipperary forward Long, the Irishman's work off the ball pressurising Carragher's creaking legs while at the opposite end Suarez continued to buzz around goalmouth chances like a wasp with the scent of pub-spilt cider.

It was Liverpool who proved more adept at playing the 4-2-3-1 system in the early skirmishes with Steven Gerrard's superlative passing bridging the space between defence and attack and Stuart Downing's incisive wing play keeping West Brom's duo Yacob and Mulumbu well occupied.

It's no coincidence however that West Brom's form is superior with Yacob and Mulumbu in the side and with Mulumbu being schooled at Paris Saint Germain and Yacob at Racing of the Argentinian Primera Division it's clear that the pair have the technique to go with their harrying qualities.

It was perhaps inevitable then, that the first half was to finish scoreless with the holding midfielders performing so ably and with Liverpool's luck yet to kick in. Not that this stopped the Baggies fans from seeking help from above with their "Lord is my shepherd" chant after a Shelvey pea-roller was spooned skywards by Steven Reid and almost into his own net on 42 minutes.

West Brom nerves wouldn't have been calmed with the onset of the second half with their opponents again having the best of the initial exchanges. The Baggies, perhaps mindful of their zero attempts on goal in an hour's football began to be more expansive in their play with Graham Dorrans and Chris Brunt attempting to push the agenda in the final third.

This led to Brendan Rodgers sniffing blood and substituting Shelvey for Fabio Borini and Jordan Henderson for Stirling on 60 minutes. Stirling had a prompt impact on 71 minutes when he found space on the left wing and passed to an onrushing Gerrard in the West Brom box. Gerrard's first-time shot was kept out in fine style with a single handed Ben Foster save - made all the more impressive for his quick change of direction.

Clarke responded to the growing Liverpool pressure by throwing on Romelu Lukaku, the bullish Belgian's prowess in hold up play and charging at the opposition offering a much needed out ball.

But just as Clarke was implementing tactical measures to hold Liverpool back, the Reds finally found their luck. A seemingly innocuous coming together of Jonas Olsson and Suarez in the West Brom box led to Suarez biting grass and referee Jonathan Moss pointing to the spot.

Gerrard has favoured the left side for his penalties so it is testament to Foster that when the Liverpool number eight chose to go right the Baggies stopper adjusted and palmed the ball firmly round the post. Foster's save epitomised a first-class defensive display from the Baggies to that point.

Rodgers, in his thirst for three points, brought on the Brazilian Philippe Coutinho in order to unpick the stubborn West Brom back four. Sometimes however, multiple substitutions upset team shape and it was ironically the Baggies, without a single shot on goal in 80 minutes who took the lead. Chris Brunt's whipped corner from the right side was met with a free header by Gareth McCauley. Quite what Rodgers would have made of the goal scored so easily by the team widely known as the most aerially adept in the Premier League is anyone's guess.

Observers would have expected Liverpool to attack with a vengeance after the ignominy of conceding to such a conservative West Brom outfit but it was the Baggies who threw caution to the wind against a side who's stamina didn't live up to their rich reputation.

Lukaku has a point to prove after failing to replace his idol Drogba at Stamford Bridge and the Antwerp assassin began to harangue the the Reds defence like the Ivorian in his Marseille years. With Liverpool going for broke, West Brom's James Morrison broke on 90 minutes with the marauding Lukaku pointing to where a through ball should be placed. Morrison's pass was half baked yet Lukaku was able to take it in his stride with a subtle left-footed take before switching to his right and driving the ball past a despairing Pepe Reina.

Anfield resounded to the noise of tipped up plastic seats and the sight of the heavyweight Lukaku taking the plaudits like a man realising his own strength.

Liverpool's 'lucky' red shirts counted for nothing because (as we all know) you make your own luck in football.

Meanwhile, the Chinese New Year and its animal symbolism was brought to an end with the mythical Liver bird being overcome by the throstle.

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

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ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

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