Monday 20 February 2012

Albion Hit For Six!

Liverpool 6, Albion 1
FA Cup 5th Round, Anfield
Sunday 19th February 2012

Gus Poyet said after this match that it was a reality check for the team and the fans. He’s not wrong. Not many teams can say they went to Anfield, scored four goals and came away with a 6-1 defeat. Three own goals, some absolutely outstanding classy play from Liverpool, in particular from Steven Gerrard and the lively Luis Suarez who was everywhere, saw off Albion’s attempt to reach the quarter finals for the first time since 1983. Not many teams could have lived with Liverpool when they play like this, they passed and moved so quickly and had a real quality about them. Albion tried to play their usual passing game but there was a distinct lack of movement and quality, which was the difference between these two sides. This is the first time I’ve seen my team concede six goals and whilst it was not a pleasurable experience you could not help but admire the way that Liverpool played. At times rampant and unstoppable their second half performance was outstanding and Albion just couldn’t live with them.

For the first forty two minutes it looked like Brighton might get something out of the game. Albion went 1-0 down within five minutes of the start after Martin Skrtel headed in from Steven Gerrard’s corner. The Seagull defenders seemed to be too busy looking after the imposing figure of Andy Carroll in the penalty area to notice the glancing header from the Slovakian. Having suffered that early setback, which is just what Albion didn’t need, they bravely fought their way back into the game with some patient build up play and played their passing game quite effectively at times. They got their just reward when on 17 minutes Albion were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Liverpool area. Up stepped Kasenga Lua Lua who thumped home a shot of such ferocity that Pepe Reina couldn’t hold on to it. A brilliant goal that seemed to me like a carbon copy of the late goal he scored against Millwall in the 2-2 draw at the Amex last Tuesday night. Game on and the Albion fans were in full voice cheering their team on towards half time. A terrific goal line clearance from Inigo Calderon convinced the Seagulls fans that maybe, just maybe, we could get something out of this game. Just when it looked as if a 1-1 half time score line was imminent we saw the first of what were to be many defensive mix ups that resulted in a bizarre own goal from Liam Bridcutt. Heartbreak for Albion so late in the half but still not a disaster, little did Albion and their fans know what was to follow.

Craig Noone was brought on for the ineffective Will Buckley at the start of the second half for Albion but Liverpool stepped up a gear and every time they were awarded a free kick or corner you could sense the anxiety in the Albion defence. Albion fans held their heads in their hands for much of the second half as the onslaught continued. A goal from Carroll, two more bizarre own goals from Bridcutt and Dunk and one more from Suarez finally killed off the game leaving Albion and their fans begging for the final whistle. Liverpool even had the luxury of a missed Suarez penalty as Peter Brezovan in the Albion goal did brilliantly to save the spot kick and prevent further humiliation.

Although well beaten I felt that the score line in a strange way flattered Liverpool just a little, after all three own goals had never been seen in the FA Cup before and to their credit the Seagulls did continue to try and play their passing football game, not convinced that shutting up shop and conceding defeat was an option. Albion had a ‘may as well get hung for a pig as for a lamb’ mentality which I liked. Outplayed and outclassed? Yes. Lessons learned? Yes, for sure. This game showed how large a gulf there is between a newly promoted and ambitious Championship side and a top six Premiership side. If we had played as well as we know we can and Liverpool had an off day then perhaps Albion might have got something out of this game. It wasn’t to be and you have to acknowledge that the best team on the day won.
Despite the game and it’s result the Albion fans were absolutely magnificent throughout and didn't stop singing all afternoon, I was proud to be there and to be one of them. Even though we got narrowly beaten in a very tight game (well that's how I choose to remember it) we still managed to have a good laugh on the NWSS coach on our way home. It was certainly a day to remember in more ways than one. A big thank you to Andy at NWSS for organising the coach for yesterday's trip to Anfield. Thanks also go to drivers Hugo & Clive who got us there and back safely despite spending most of the return trip trying to overtake the Albion team bus along the M40. We managed to finally overtake the team bus with a window wave from the Albion defenders but I somehow suspect it wasn't the first time that day that the back four had been passed with ease.
A decent cup run comes to an end. It's been emotional.

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