How Brendan Rodgers answered his critics beautifully against West Brom

Brendan Rogers Press Conference Smiling - 16/02/2014

The Liverpool boss needed to produce a response at Anfield. And he did.

Almost a year ago, Liverpool dispatched West Brom 4-1 at Anfield with total ease. So, although the Baggies had won three games on the trot in all competitions going into this season's visit to Anfield, no one was going to hand the Reds any medals for getting three points against them this time around.

But the build-up to last Saturday's clash was somewhat different to the same lead-up last term. Liverpool are nowhere near the in-form side they were back then and several issues desperately needed addressing.

That meant any kind of result would have sufficed against Alan Irvine's men. And, lo and behold, boss Brendan Rodgers guided his side to a 2-1 win.

Now, as stated, any team aiming for a top-four place should be expected to beat West Brom at home - no disrespect to the Baggies. When Tottenham failed to do so, for instance, White Hart Lane was filled with thousands of dismayed supporters.

But the manner in which Liverpool got back to winning ways - and mainly the manner in which Rodgers answered his critics - is something to provide the Kop with plenty of hope for the future.

Everything from the Northern Irishman's pre-match press conference to his substitutions was spot on. Ahead of the game, Rodgers talked the talk, insisting that his side were not good enough and taking a firm line with reporters.

When his team-sheet came out before kick-off, that theme continued, with the so far woeful Lazar Markovic dropped and big-name striker Mario Balotelli also out of the starting XI.

Liverpool's performance was nowhere near perfect, of course - the Reds still have a long, long way to go to return to their very best. But Rodgers clearly conveyed the right messages to his players - that this was a game they absolutely had to win.

Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson were used exactly how they are supposed to - and Rodgers even extracted some good out of Balotelli, bringing him on and seeing him link up superbly with Steven Gerrard when the Liverpool captain was moved into a more advanced role.

Tougher tests lie in wait, with a double-header against European champions Real Madrid on the horizon. Any criticism of the 41-year-old, meanwhile, was fully justified following the dire performance in Basel the previous week.

For now, though, Rodgers' every action has been like a perfectly calculated set of moves on a chessboard. In one weekend, he has fought his way of a corner and set Liverpool on the path back to where they need to be.

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