Saturday 29 October 2016

Europa looms as Reds fire blanks

West Brom 0 Liverpool 0

John Percy

Published 26/04/2015 | 02:30

West Brom's Brown Ideye and Dejan Lovren of Liverpool compete for the ball during their match at The Hawthorns yesterday
West Brom's Brown Ideye and Dejan Lovren of Liverpool compete for the ball during their match at The Hawthorns yesterday
Darren Fletcher of West Brom hugs Steven Gerrard of Liverpool during their match at The Hawthorns yesterday
West Brom's Boaz Myhill makes a save from Fabio Borini of Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers is facing the unpalatable prospect of the Europa League next season after hopes of a top-four finish were washed away in the rain here.

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After being knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend, this was an excruciating experience for Rodgers and further stark notice of where Liverpool urgently need to strengthen in the summer.

Steven Gerrard made his 500th Premier League appearance but that will be the only memory of this insipid stalemate which surely extinguished any lingering hopes of a Champions League place.

Jordon Ibe produced their best chance by striking the crossbar but this was another damning example of how poor the club's recruitment was last summer.

Mario Balotelli, making only his ninth league start, was anonymous while Dejan Lovren and Emre Can do not appear good enough for a team with ambitions of challenging for the title. And, on current form, Raheem Sterling does not look like a player worth more than £100,000 a week.

When asked about Liverpool's prospects of finishing in the top four, Rodgers said: "It's very difficult. I felt we needed to win five of the remaining six games at least. We just don't score as many goals, it's as simple as that. We had two players last year who between them got 50-plus goals, and we don't have that. It's an area that we will look at in the summer."

Gerrard was given a warm welcome but Albion didn't extend any further courtesies. The lifeless first half emphasised where Rodgers needs to strengthen, with PSV Eindhoven forward Memphis Depay emerging as an early target.

At times it resembled a training session, with Gerrard displaying his full repertoire of passing as he was allowed to dictate play from a holding position in front of the back four. There was little threat to the Albion defence, however.

Albion virtually secured safety last weekend with their win at Pulis' former club Crystal Palace and they struggled here to build any momentum.

Liverpool should have been ahead in the 55th minute. Philippe Coutinho's low shot was saved by Boaz Myhill and Jordan Henderson's attempt on the rebound was headed off the line by Joleon Lescott. Craig Gardner then volleyed into the side netting as a football match finally broke out. Ibe struck the crossbar after a neat exchange of passes with Balotelli and barely 60 seconds later Liverpool required Dejan Lovren to clear James Morrison's header off the goal line.

Albion finished the stronger team and Pulis is now seven points above 18th-placed Sunderland. Typically, he was remaining cautious. "I've been in this game long enough to know that strange things can happen," he said.


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