Liverpool fans will have walked away from last night’s 3-0 victory with spirits high from the satisfaction of a job well done. The performance was not brilliant; it was simply appropriate for a team at the top of the Barclay’s Premier League playing a West Brom side that started the game in 19th place.
This is probably no bad thing for a team with serious designs on the Premiership this term. In fact, for the majority inside Anfield, this was the kind of performance that they will happily take all the way until the final day of the season. Three points in the bag. Top of the table. If these two statements are still bandied about with regards to Liverpool come the new year, then Rafael Benitez’s men really can start thinking about ending the club’s 19-year wait for the title.
But what this game was really about was Robbie Keane. Or more accurately, it was about Robbie Keane justifying his much-discussed price-tag. Many have argued that Benitez paid over-the-odds for Keane, that 20-odd million pounds was too much. But this will quickly become a moot point if Keane carries on in this fashion.
The Irish striker has taken 11 games to open his Premiership account, but the clinical nature of both his finishes was worth the wait. His first came in the 34th minute. From an almost casual Steven Gerrard pass – such was the time and space afforded the Liverpool captain – Keane lifted the ball with conviction over the advancing Scott Carson.
His second was less glamorous but no less important given Keane’s own admission that scoring his first Premiership goal would be akin to getting a monkey off his back. From a West Brom corner at the Kop end, Javier Mascherano found an outlet in Fabio Aurelio, the left back playing an inch-perfect ball in front of Keane who calmly rounded the on-rushing Carson and arrowed the ball into the empty net.
The game was effectively over at this point. And while West Brom gave a good account of themselves for the remainder of the match, they were never going to trouble the league leaders. Except for a well-struck Brunt free kick that hit Pepe Reina’s side netting, West Brom had scant other legitimate goal-scoring threat.
The three points in hand, Benitez had twenty minutes to introduce the returning Fernando Torres for his obligatory rapturous applause. But the bigger and more important part of that ovation was for Keane, making way for the Spaniard, as the crowd acknowledged his handiwork and his goals. The famed number 7 shirt is seemingly in good hands once again.
For now, the Liverpool bandwagon rolls on. Alvaro Arbeloa added gloss to the score line with a late curling shot, having been played into the area by the no-mess, no-fuss Mascherano. But last night was Keane’s night. He left the Kop simmering nicely over the prospect of his partnership with Torres being reignited and signaled the value of his own renewed confidence to title-chasing Liverpool.