Baggies blown away by Suarez
LUIS Suarez’s simply stunning hat-trick ended Albion’s five-game unbeaten run.
The Baggies had won their previous three matches against Liverpool but that sequence was never in danger of being extended from the moment the Uruguayan broke the deadlock on 12.
Suarez, who had failed to score against Albion before today, added a second with a bullet header five minutes later and the visitors’ first away defeat of the season looked certain when the striker made it 3-0 ten minutes after half-time.
The mood inside Anfield changed when sub James Morrison pulled one back from the spot on 66.
Steve Clarke’s side had other chances to further reduce the arrears – before Daniel Sturridge made the three points absolutely safe for the Reds with a magnificent 77th-minute chip.
Albion were a pale shadow of the team that had caught the eye in recent weeks but that had a lot to do with Liverpool’s vibrant display.
Third entertained 12th at Anfield as Albion arrived on Merseyside searching for their fifth win in six meetings with Liverpool.
Former Reds first-team coach Clarke made one change, recalling Nicolas Anelka to face his former club in place of the benched Saido Berahino.
Clarke’s former Chelsea colleague Brendan Rodgers also made one alteration, calling up Lucas in place of Victor Moses.
Both teams marked the FA’s 150th anniversary by warming up in specially-designed celebration t-shirts.
The game’s opening was somewhat uneventful as the teams sized each other up. The first shot did not arrive until the sixth minute when Suarez fired weakly wide from 25 yards.
Steven Gerrard, making his 450th top-flight appearance for his home-town club, was equally ineffective from similar distance two minutes later.
Albion responded with a spell of possession deep inside the Liverpool half – but it was the hosts who drew first blood on 12.
Suarez added to his catalogue of individual goals by collecting the ball 25 yards out and skipping past Claudio Yacob and Jonas Olsson before driving into the far bottom corner from 15 yards.
Albion had a real mountain to climb five minutes later when they fell further behind. The visitors looked well set defensively as Aly Cissokho chipped the ball across the edge of the box – until Suarez ghosted in to plant a stunning header inside Boaz Myhill’s top right-hand corner from all of 16 yards.
Liverpool’s fluency was something to behold and the other half of their 'SAS' strike-pairing tried his luck on 18, with Sturridge swivelling smartly on the edge of the box before volleying high over the bar.
Albion were struggling to find any rhythm and Liverpool passed up a great chance to make it 3-0 on 27. From Suarez’s deft free-kick, Gerrard pulled the ball back from the byline, only for Martin Skrtel to mis-kick in the wrong direction from seven yards.
Suarez went for the jugular with his next free-kick but curled harmlessly wide from 25 yards.
Whenever Albion did exert pressure, they were vulnerable to Liverpool’s swift counter-attacks. From one such surge upfield, Gerrard laid the ball off to Jordan Henderson just inside the box and the ex-Sunderland midfielder wasn’t far away with a right-footed curler.
Clarke was forced into a change a minute before the break, replacing the injured Morgan Amalfitano with Morrison.
Albion created their first chance in stoppage time – and almost pulled a goal back. Youssouf Mulumbu fed Anelka with a sublime diagonal aerial pass and the striker poked the ball past the on-rushing Simon Mignolet, only to see his effort hacked clear by Skrtel in front of goal.
Liverpool started the second 45 on the front foot and Sturridge fizzed a left-footed free-kick just wide from 25 yards.
Moments later, Cissokho saw an 18-yard effort deflected just wide of the near post by Gareth McAuley.
At the other end, a Morrison corner was only half-cleared by the hosts and Yacob curled a right-footed shot from the edge of the box just past the right-hand post.
But it was game over on 55. Suarez ghosted in unmarked at the near post to flick Gerrard’s free-kick from the left past the helpless Myhill.
Albion responded well and Kolo Toure had to produce a vital block to prevent Morrison’s header nestling in the empty net following Billy Jones’ run and cross.
But Liverpool remained full of menace and Sturridge hacked a great chance over from Glen Johnson’s low centre. Moments later, the England striker had Olsson back-pedalling before smashing an unstoppable 18-yard shot off the bar.
Albion had a great chance to reduce the arrears on 64 when Olsson headed Morrison’s free-kick back across goal. The ball fell kindly for McAuley, who spun and volleyed over from close range.
However, it WAS 3-1 two minutes later. Another fine Jones run was halted illegally inside the box. No less than three Reds players swarmed around the right-back but it appeared that Cissokho committed the foul. Morrison made no mistake from the spot, sending Mignolet the wrong way.
Clarke made his final changes on 68, replacing Anelka and Yacob with Shane Long and Chris Brunt.
Myhill was called into action for the first time in a while when he pushed away Gerrard’s acute drive at his near post.
But Albion were making a real game of it now and Victor Anichebe saw his turn and shot from Stephane Sessegnon’s lay-off blocked in a crowded goalmouth.
Not satisfied with his brilliant treble, Suarez was pushing for a fourth goal and he curled an ambitious 30-yard free-kick just wide of the right-hand post.
Back came Albion and Brunt screwed a left-footed shot from Anichebe’s tee-up wide from 20 yards.
Brunt had an even better chance on 76 when he fired over on the turn from Liam Ridgewell’s pinpoint centre.
With that opportunity went Albion’s last hopes of an unlikely comeback. Liverpool stormed upfield and Sturridge joined Suarez on the scoresheet with a sublime 20-yard chip which arced just over Myhill’s outstetched arm and into the far top corner.
Chances came at both ends during the dying stages. Myhill showed superb reflexes to push Suarez’s close-range overhead kick onto his bar before keeping out the ex-Ajax forward’s 20-yard rocket.
Mignolet also had to be at his very best to deny Morrison’s 12-yard snapshot from Sessegnon’s pass.
LIVERPOOL (3-4-1-2): Mignolet; Toure, Skrtel, Sakho; Johnson (Kelly 62), Lucas, Henderson, Cissokho; Gerrard (Allen 86); Sturridge, Suarez (Alberto 89). Subs not used: Jones (gk), Agger, Sterling, Moses.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson (c), Ridgewell; Yacob (Brunt 68), Mulumbu; Amalfitano (Morrison 44), Sessegnon, Anichebe; Anelka (Long 68). Subs not used: Daniels (gk), Lugano, Vydra, Berahino.
GOALS: LIVERPOOL – Suarez (12, 17 & 55), Sturridge (77). ALBION – Morrison (pen 66).
BOOKINGS: ALBION – Yacob (foul 54), Olsson (foul 72).
REFEREE: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire)
ALBION STARMAN: Youssouf Mulumbu.