West Brom 1 Odemwingie 76'
It's hard to really be mad the wake of West Brom's victory over Liverpool at Anfield---disappointed, sure, and maybe a little PTSD-ish as the hosts yet again wasted an infinite number of chances to take the lead early or draw level late. At this point, though, there's little use in getting overly ragey at another slew of nearly moments that ultimately condemned Liverpool to their second consecutive home defeat.
If you've been paying attention this season, it's impossible to talk about today's loss without referencing nearly every Liverpool home match that's seen the club drop points. The only difference today is that this one's become the new standard for ways in which Liverpool can disappoint, as they completely dominated the first 75 minutes and looked like the only team that would win it.
Which made Peter Odemwingie's winner particularly cruel, especially given that the passage of play that led to it included an error from the mostly excellent Glen Johnson. Youssouf Mulumbu nicked it away from the turned-around fullback and on to the Nigerian striker, who beat Pepe Reina (who was also very solid to that point) one on one. West Brom had a few chances to that, two of which Reina turned away and one that was inexplicably wasted by Shane Long when he was alone on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area.
We'd be here all day if we tried to recount each of Liverpool's chances, starting early in the first half and rounding off around ten minutes from time when it became painfully clear that nothing Liverpool were doing was going to lead to a goal. Luis Suarez had one of his best matches of the season up front alongside Andy Carroll, who was unmatched in the air and managed a few clear chances of his own. Jay Spearing and Jordan Henderson were both very good in the middle, and the aforementioned Johnson and Reina were standouts among a back line that rarely found themselves pressured.
But none of that was good enough to get the win, as nearly every player in the squad was responsible for spurning a clear goal-scoring opportunity. At times it defied belief, with no less than three or four Liverpool players having a shot on Ben Foster's goal at one point early in the second half. The narrative of the season that never ends only got stronger---Liverpool are terrific at maintaining possession and creating chances, but when it comes to finishing things off, they're absolutely horrendous.
Of course the woodwork was involved, and Foster made as many good saves as he fumbled, but as we've said before, luck and misfortune can only carry so much of the blame. Aside from the two that hit the post Liverpool had another handful on target that were either saved or blocked, and likely around thirty overall. And yet here we are, talking about what could have been and trying to add up the number of hypothetical goals Liverpool could or should have scored this year.
Today their shortcomings are heightened not because the opposition often looked overmatched---Liverpool are used to disappointing against "lesser" opposition---but because everything else looked so damned nice. The selection and personnel were what we'd hoped for, the substitutions were mostly timely and beneficial, and the squad played with a passion and drive that was unquestioned.
And those combine to produce one of the only other negatives on the day, in that we're left to wonder why we haven't seen this version of Liverpool more often this season. All involved today have been available for most of the season, and aside from the rust we've unfortunately come to expect from Dirk Kuyt, they came together to give Liverpool one of their most effective (or as effective as they could be without scoring) displays of the season. That question lies solely at the feet of Kenny Dalglish, who found himself helpless to influence today's result despite getting so much else right.
That's the story of Liverpool's Premier League campaign, though, and it's one that'll be remember not for the number of goals they could have scored, but how they failed to find the cutting edge when they needed to. That's cruel and disappointing, but it's Liverpool, and we'll support them to the end.
Which, thankfully, is right around the corner.