|Odemwingie 64 (pen)|
Right, ok. Let's not over-react completely here.
This ended up being an absolutely disastrous first game of the season for the Reds thanks to an excruciating last half hour of football at the Hawthorns. The point that will be forgotten in all of this is that the first hour was actually pretty decent.
The first half was even enough with West Brom looking slightly better than I thought they'd be. It was the home side that threatened first with Ridgewell blazing over from distance. Then Shane Long latched onto a mistake from Lucas only to see his lobbed effort go over the bar.
Luis Suarez responded minutes later with a swift break through the middle although his shot from distance was comfortably saved by Foster. The Uruguayan followed this up in the 16th minute with a neat turn and watery effort on goal. As per last season it was the number 7 who was providing all the creativity for us in the final third.
The Reds started to settle into things as the half went on, with Joe Allen and Lucas looking the part in the centre of midfield. In particular the Welshman used the ball very intelligently and I can see him becoming the heartbeat of the side as the season progresses.
Suarez missed a golden chance to open the scoring in the 29th minute, putting his header from Glen Johnson's cross over the bar from only a few yards out. I'm sure Luis will score plenty this season but he seems to be continually prone to glaring misses like these. It's an enormous pity.
Just before half-time West Brom went ahead with a fairly unstoppable effort. A corner from the right was cleared to the edge of the box where Zoltan Gera pinged one into the top corner. Admittedly there might have been someone nearer to him to close down the space, but the strike itself was a zinger. 1-0 at the break and a harsh one to concede.
The second half saw us squeeze a little further up the pitch. This resulted in some decent crossing opportunities for Downing and Johnson but both managed to horribly fluff their attempts, giving Rodgers plenty to scribble about in his little notepad.
Then in the 57th minute came the moment that changed everything. The high line the Reds were employing was shattered as Shane Long raced through the middle. Daniel Agger managed to catch up with him and the nearest of nudges sent the striker tumbling. It was always going to be a penalty and it was always going to be a sending off, no question. Long stepped up only to see his limp penalty saved by Reina. He could have thrown his cap on it.
A man down but still only one goal down so the contest was still on. That was until five minutes later when Martin Skrtel set out to provide Exhibit A of why he's the most overrated centre half in English football. Receiving the ball in his own box he took a touch while plotting his next move. This allowed Shane Long in to nip possession and the ensuing tangle of legs meant another penalty was awarded. Regardless of Skrtel's intent with the tackle itself, to be so ponderous in such a dangerous position was criminal. Odemwingie buried the spot kick.
2-0 now and the heads went down, which I was more than a little surprised by. There was no real response from the players and they seemed to accept defeat with over 25 minutes still left to play. This is the kind of thing we saw time and time again last year and it looks as if Rodgers is going to have a hell of a job on his hands to instil some belief into this squad.
Sub Lukaku added a third in the 77th minute but could easily have been five or six. In particular James Morrison missed an absolute sitter as the home side revelled in some rare champagne football.
Joe Cole came off the bench only to be subbed 10 minutes later with a dodgy hamstring, offering definitive proof that it will never happen for him at Liverpool FC. It's not his fault that things haven't worked out for him, but that's some return we've had on £90k a week. His replacement, the unwanted Andy Carroll, looked his normal frustrated, angry self and must surely be offloaded before the window shuts.
As the final whistle blew it all looked a bit of a mess for us. There were players in the squad of 18 today who will not be at the club by the time the window closes and this can't be doing much for team morale. But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of today's performance was that we seemed to pick up exactly where we left off from last season – a mixture of profligacy at crucial moments, catastrophic individual errors and a general lack of fight or belief.
This was supposed to be a clean slate today, a fresh start. To a certain extent it was, particularly in the first half. However once things went against us early in the second half the Reds quickly crumbled. While we're stuck with the likes of Johnson and Skrtel at the back (incidentally Martin Kelly looked extremely ropey today too), it's the lack of firepower up front that is genuinely concerning. We need two forwards in before the window shuts to have any chance of being competitive this season.
However looking at the full 90 minutes of play today, we cannot get too carried away with the end result. I think it's unfortunate that things have started like this for Rodgers as the heat will immediately be on him. At least he now knows the true scale of the task in hand.
Subs: Carragher for Downing (60), Cole for Lucas (68), Carroll for Cole (79)
Unused Subs: Jones, Shelvey, Adam, Henderson.