Liverpool handed a knock out blow in Baggies Bout- succumbing to a third year of 4th round failure in the FA Cup.
A strong starting line up, invincible at Anfield and being the clear favourites; Nearly all the important factors were pointing towards a Liverpool win. This looked the likely outcome with only 5 minutes on the clock. A defensive mix up from the experienced Johnny Evans and goalkeeper Ben Foster led to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino effortlessly floating the ball over the stranded keeper into the back of the net. One nil down and the Baggies already had an uphill task… So it seemed.
A glorious goal was followed by an uplifting roar by the Anfield faithful, however, even the players were still in the celebratory mode when 60 seconds later West Brom sliced through the Liverpool ranks, with Jay Rodriguez smashing the ball into the top right-hand corner from distance. The home fans were silenced.
To heighten Liverpool’s frustrations, Rodriguez made it two goals in six minutes with a tap-in from close range, managing to ghost in-between Liverpool’s lacklustre defence to get in the end of Kieran Gibbs left-footed cross.
As if this wasn’t already entertaining enough for a peak FA Cup audience both at Anfield and on the TV then it was about to get a lot more frantic. The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was on trial for a sixth time in England and it sure has been a hot topic of conversation. Saturday’s game proves why nothing is ever plain sailing with technology, as despite some imperative decisions being overturned, issues still arose.
The home sides luck had potential of turning on its head, much to the disbelief and anger of West Brom players. Firstly Craig Dawson’s glancing header was ruled out as Gareth Barry was deemed to be in an offside position and making an attempt to play the ball. Referee Craig Pawson called VAR as an aid and after much consultation disallowed the goal. In all truth those at home could firmly agree with this; Players and fans though didn’t have a clue.
The second incident not long after saw Liverpool awarded a penalty. Karma took its toll as Firmino stepped up and rattled the bar, much to the annoyance of the fans as the VAR decision took several minutes of what may have been inconclusive and pointless delegation between Pawson and the VAR.cThese decisions didn’t save Liverpool for long and when they went 3-1 down on the stroke of half-time, through a hash Joel Matip own goal, it looked as if the help of a referee was pointless to them.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were rattled and the manager looked more shocked and in anguish than anyone. In a rare knee-jerk reaction, he made a triple substitution midway through the second half including bringing on captain Jordan Henderson for attacker Sadio Mane, a decision which triggered some home fans to boo as the sun was made.
West Brom should take all the credit and plaudits rather than any other talking points. Liverpool battled and got one back through Salah, nevertheless, the visitors stood firm and reduced the Reds to scraps and making them look very ordinary in the process. Long balls into the box in the closing stages caused some problems but despite this, it was a case of too little too late as Liverpool crashed out of the cup
Anger and hurt is what most reds will be feeling right now. Who can really argue that the FA Cup doesn’t matter anymore? It’s the cup everyone wants to win and if losing to Swansea agitated Liverpool supporters then this was the sucker punch in what looks like another season without a trophy in realistic terms.