Liverpool
PA

Reds relegate Baggies at Hawthorns

West Brom's top flight life was squeezed out of them by a Liverpool side who tightened their grip on second place in the English Premier League.

Liverpool scored a goal in each half to extend their unbeaten run to 10 games, including nine victories.

But Liverpool were left with the hollow feeling of knowing that even the best points total in the club's history had failed to stop Manchester United equaling their record of 18 titles.

Albion, sticking to their attacking policy to the last, have been battling the drop all season and this was their third relegation from the top flight in seven years.

They fought to the last, and there were more cheers than tears from their defiant fans at the end.

But Liverpool were a class above as Steven Gerrard struck his 24th goal of the season - his best ever tally - in the first half and then set up Dirk Kuyt for the second just after the hour mark.

It was enough to take them to within one point of securing runner's-up spot.

West Brom made three changes from the side that beat Wigan last week and were rocked before kick-off by Sunday newspaper allegations against striker Roman Bednar, who was suspended pending a club investigation.

Boss Tony Mowbray brought in Robert Koren, Ryan Donk and Youssouf Mulumbu for Borja Valero, Marek Cech and Graham Dorrans, the latter out for the season with a broken foot.

Liverpool recalled in Daniel Agger and Emiliano Insua for Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurelio.

Initially the edge may well have been taken off Liverpool's challenge, but certainly not from Albion, who hurled themselves into the battle knowing that defeat would see them relegated.

And after just four minutes they were almost ahead. Chris Brunt's corner curled in from the right to Jonathan Greening on the far post who forced a stunning save from Jose Reina. The goalkeeper also blocked the follow-up.

Reina then pushed away another Greening effort, this time from the right, as corners and crosses rained in on the Liverpool defense.

And the tackles were flying in. Mulumbu caught Gerrard from behind, while Agger and Insua were both dispossessed.

Liverpool were not being allowed to play the game at their own pace and looked uncomfortable.

Liverpool needed to impose themselves on the game with a goal and it almost came when Fernando Torres had two efforts saved from Gerrard's free-kick, with Insua's follow-up being blocked by a mass of Albion bodies.

Greening was booked for a foul on Lucas after 25 minutes, before a shocking piece of defending gifted Liverpool the lead after 28 minutes.

Defender Shelton Martis, with plenty of time on his hands to clear, hesitated in possession and scuffed the ball straight to Gerrard.

The Liverpool skipper surged away and clipped the ball over Dean Kiely for his 24th goal of the season.

Liverpool were gaining a measure of control by now, and five minutes later Gerrard drove wide from a Kuyt lay-off before Kiely touched a Torres header onto the bar following a Gerrard chip into the box.

Then Jonas Olsson was booked for a foul on Torres before reacting furiously to what he considered was a Gerrard dive in the box.

Five minutes into the second half Liverpool replaced Javier Mascherano with Xabi Alonso, the Argentina captain having struggled with a thigh injury for much of the first period.

Albion were still showing great spirit, and Reina saved low to his left from a Juan Carlos Menseguez drive.

Albion then sent on an extra forward in Valero, replacing Martis, with attack now being the only thing that would save them.

They had strong claims for a penalty turned down after 60 minutes when Lucas' last ditch challenge sent Donk tumbling as he went for a Menseguez cross.

But after 63 minutes Liverpool struck again. Gerrard fed Kuyt and the Dutchmen surged at retreating defenders before drilling the ball past Kiely from the edge of the box.

Liverpool sent on Ryan Babel for Torres, with Albion replacing Mulumbu with another forward in Luke Moore.

Moore struck a post, Jamie Carragher hurled himself to block a Marc-Antoine Fortune effort and was involved in a remarkable exchange of words and pushes with colleague Alvaro Arbeloa.

Fortune then had an effort disallowed for offside while Babel and Lucas missed chances at the other end.

Albion kept going to the end, but this time the great escape was beyond them.

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