Roy Hodgson made a point to his former employers Liverpool – and gained three for his new club to give West Brom a massive lift in their relegation battle.
Chris Brunt scored twice from the penalty spot as the Baggies came from behind to cancel out Martin Skrtel’s opener for Liverpool in a pulsating game that West Brom thoroughly deserved to win.
The result means Hodgson extended his unbeaten run to five games since taking over at West Brom, who moved further away from the relegation zone.
Hodgson has won two and drawn three of his games so far – and none can have been more satisfying than this, over his successor Kenny Dalglish.
The Scot had to rejig his defence twice in the opening half-hour after losing both Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger to injuries. Johnson pulled up with a hamstring injury inside eight minutes, while Agger limped off with a knee problem 16 minutes later.
The changes disrupted the rhythm of the Reds, who had started brightly. In only the second minute, Andy Carroll headed on a corner to Dirk Kuyt, who put a close-range header straight at Scott Carson before hooking the rebound over the bar.
But once Johnson limped off, the home side took the initiative, led by the lively Peter Odemwinge and crafty Brunt. The Northern Ireland midfielder stretched Pepe Reina with a long-range free-kick, and then crossed for Steven Reid to have a header saved.
Odemwinge cut in from the left to have a shot well saved, but Reina’s best effort was to prevent a headed own-goal by Skrtel from Jerome Thomas’ cross.
Carson, by contrast, had little to do in the first half after Kuyt’s early chance. Luis Suarez struggled to find space in front of goal, while Andy Carroll seemed caught up in a personal battle with Jonas Olsson that led to a yellow card for the 35 million pound striker.
But Carroll played a large part in the goal that gave Liverpool the lead five minutes into the second half, as he won the corner from which Skrtel scored.
After Carroll’s 20-yard snap shot was turned over by Carson, Raul Mereiles drove a corner into the home penalty area. Skrtel made a late run and rose high above Paul Scharner to power his header into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
But Hodgson’s side would not buckle. Brunt had a volley well saved before equalising from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute. Odemwinge turned Sotirios Kyrgiakos on the edge of the penalty area before sprawling under the Greek defender’s challenge, and Brunt sent Reina the wrong way with his penalty kick.
That got the home fans going again, and Odemwinge went close as he tore down the right wing, cut in and hit a vicious shot with his left foot that Reina did well to beat away.
Moments later Mereiles went close for Liverpool, sending his shot narrowly wide of the far post, while at the other end, Jamie Carragher made a brilliant block to keep out a goalbound shot from Thomas.
The former Arsenal winger then had a curling shot saved by Reina, as West Brom went looking for the winning goal.
And it came with just two minutes remaining as Brunt scored from the penalty spot again. Odemwinge went through on goal, and as he turned past Reina, the keeper’s legs took him down.
Despite Reina’s vehement protests, Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot again and Brunt made no mistake, smashing the ball into the far corner of goal.
Even then, Liverpool almost equalised in stoppage time but Suarez had a shot blocked before having his lob headed off the line by Nicky Shorey in stoppage time.
At the final whistle the home fans erupted in delight – and so they might after a momentous victory, their first over Liverpool since 1981.
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