The former Southampton skipper and Liverpool’s new vice-captain were instrumental as Brendan Rodgers’ side encouragingly entered the international break on a positive note following a difficult spell. Lallana rounded off a wonderful move to open the scoring on the stroke of half time, while Henderson struck home what turned out to be the winning goal on the hour mark after Saido Berahino had netted a controversially awarded spot kick to level for the visitors.
Following Wednesday night’s loss in Basel, Rodgers was looking for a response from his troops, and hence he made a bold decision regarding his starting line-up, dropping the misfiring Mario Balotelli to the bench and introducing Rickie Lambert to the first eleven for the first time in a League game since his summer move from Southampton.
It was a correct and clever move from the Northern Irish boss, demonstrating both his commitment to a meritocratic system and his willingness to assert his authority over Balotelli if necessary. Moreover, Lambert played quite well up front for 64 minutes, while Balotelli also threatened Albion’s defence when he replaced the number nine for the final third of the match.
Although Liverpool never hit top gear at any point and put in a performance far below the dizzying heights they managed to reach last season, they found a way to win against an improving West Brom side, and that was the most important thing on the final whistle.
With that said the Reds were the better team during the first half and just about deserved to enter the interval in front. In the opening 20 minutes Sterling and Lambert went close to opening the scoring, the former clipping a shot goalwards after embarking on a mazy run and the latter testing Ben Foster following a wonderful defence splitting pass from Manquillo.
West Brom responded, though, through their main man Berahino, whose goal haul of six is only bettered by Chelsea’s Diego Costa. The England U21 international stung Mignolet’s hands with an effort from range after Henderson had lazily lost possession and then sent a header from Pocognoli’s left wing cross sailing into the Kop from six yards out when he probably should have done better.
Berahino was eventually to find himself on the score sheet with a little help from referee Michael Oliver, but before then Liverpool broke the deadlock on the stroke of half time, as Adam Lallana bagged his first goal in a Red shirt.
The skilled technician showed quick feet to engineer space for himself on the edge of the box when surrounded by West Brom defenders. He then exchanged a delightful one-two with Henderson and concluded the move by firing into the far corner from close range, before celebrating ecstatically with his relieved teammates.
|Lallana loved opening his account for Liverpool|
Unfortunately, however, the Reds’ defence continues to encourage rather than frighten opponents, as they know its weaknesses are eminently exploitable. That proved to be the case ten minutes after the restart. Although Liverpool can have legitimate grievances with the officials, poor defending cost them dear once again as well. Lovren ludicrously produced an unnecessary last ditch challenge on Berahino, slicing him down just outside the box and, after Michael Oliver erroneously pointed to the spot, Berahino picked himself up to convert past Mignolet from twelve yards.
Importantly, Liverpool responded positively and regained the lead quickly. Had the score remained 1-1 for a significant period, the Reds’ confidence would have been drained as Anfield grew increasingly nervous. Instead, the Merseysiders took the game to the Midlanders and retook the lead on the hour mark.
Raheem Sterling was bundled over in the box but honestly and wisely decided to play on rather than complain vociferously to the referee. He then laid the ball off to Henderson, who swept home from inside the penalty area.
|Kopites love the passion in Hendo's celebrations|
It seemed to work, as the skipper was instrumental in many of the Reds’ attacks, firing an effort goalwards from Sterling’s square pass and then engaging in neat interplay with Balotelli before the Italian worked Foster. The pair linked up again in the final minute of injury time, as Balotelli lashed goalwards from Gerrard’s cleverly back heeled reverse pass, forcing Foster to make another good save.
Gerrard played so well behind Balotelli that Rodgers may have to do some thinking during the international break and considering revising the captain’s role in the team once domestic football begins again in the middle of October. With QPR, Hull City and Newcastle United next up in the league, hopefully this win will prove the beginning of a good set of results that puts Liverpool’s season back on track.
Crucially, let’s cross our fingers and pray that none of our key players come back crocked.