West Brom were sent packing from The Premier League as Liverpool put the disappointment of missing out on the title behind them to deliver a knock-out blow to Tony Mowbray’s side.
The Reds overcame the heartache of seeing Manchester United lift the Premier League trophy on Saturday to stroll to a 2-0 victory at The Hawthorns without breaking into a sweat.
After a bright start to the game, the hosts pressed the self-destruct button as Shelton Martis made a horrendous mistake to allow Liverpool to take the lead through Steven Gerrard.
And Dirk Kuyt rounded off proceedings in the second half with a sharp finish form outside the area.
The Reds' victory was soured somewhat, however, by an unsavory incident as the game drew to a close with defenders Jamie Carragher and Alvaro Arbeloa given a stern talking to by referee Martin Atkinson for having an on-pitch scuffle.
Carragher took exception to some sloppy defending from the Spaniard to give him a piece of his mind, before the pair had to be dragged apart by Xabi Alonso.
But it made not a jot of difference to the scoreline as there was no way back for The Baggies who have been relegated for the third time in Premier League history.
If there was one man who wanted Manchester United to win the title yesterday more than their relentless manager, it would have been West Brom boss Mowbray.
The prospect of taking on Liverpool with this year’s Premier League trophy already out of their reach no doubt appealed to The Baggies boss more than facing a side still capable of snatching a first league title in 19 years.
While Benitez protested prior to kick-off that there would be no letting up, it seemed almost inevitable that a certain sluggishness would have crept in after United dealt them such a crippling psychological blow.
And if the hosts could see a glimmer of light at the end of what was a very dark relegation tunnel then the opening minutes at The Hawthorns would have had the effect of handing them a shovel and telling them to get digging.
The Great Escape, as it is perennially dubbed, was on, and all they had to do was snatch their chance.
But when you have dwelt in the nether regions of the table for so long, taking chances when they crop up is often harder than it looks as Jonathan Greening ably demonstrated just four minutes into the encounter.
A corner from the right, floated to the far post, evaded all Liverpool’s static defenders and found Greening charging in behind them. The Baggies midfielder had two chances to stick the ball in the back of the net, but Reds keeper Jose Reina pulled off two superb stops to deny him from close range.
And it was then the turn of defender Carragher to come to Liverpool’s rescue as he stretched out a leg to clear a cross from Greening that had already whizzed past their keeper.
Liverpool had looked second best, but with West Brom unable to find the breakthrough their football deserved, you sensed it was only a matter of time before The Reds were dragged from their slumber.
And it was sleepy defending from the hosts that almost did just that. A freekick from Gerrard went through a crowd of Baggies defenders to find Torres at the far post. The Spain striker’s volley was blocked while Emiliano Insua’s follow-up was also deflected to safety.
It was a warning that despite their inauspicious start to the game Liverpool still posed a tremendous threat given the talent they had on the pitch – a warning that clearly wasn’t heeded by Martis who gifted Liverpool the lead with a nightmare gaffe.
The defender took possession 15 yards outside his own area, when he inexplicably turned into Gerrard, who robbed him of the ball, strode forward and flicked a delicate finish over the advancing Dean Kiely and into the back of the net on 27 minutes.
It was a cruel blow for the hosts who were now staring relegation square in the face, with little to suggest they could find a way back into the game.
And Liverpool started to turn the screw without so much as breaking into a sweat. Torres almost extended the lead four minutes before the break when his header from a Gerrard cross was tipped over by Kiely, while Jonas Olsson was lucky to stay on the pitch and give away a penalty in first-half stoppage time.
A minute after being booked for a cynical obstruction on Torres, the defender barged into the back of Gerrard sending the Liverpool skipper tumbling to the ground in the penalty area. Perhaps the referee took pity on The Baggies as he turned a blind eye to the transgression.
The second half seemed to be heading the same way as the first as Liverpool looked to increase their lead with Torres twice going close, before the hosts missed a fantastic opportunity to draw themselves level.
Juan Carlos Menseguez was fed through the middle and bore down on Reina before choosing to pass back across goal rather than beat the Liverpool keeper himself. His square ball was heading for Marc-Antoine Fortune before Lucas Leiva got back to challenge.
It would prove to be a costly miss as Kuyt hammered the final nail into The Baggies’ Premier League coffin midway through the second half.
The forward-cum-winger shaped to pass to Fernando Torres but took the ball on and fired past Kiely with an unstoppable drive from outside the area.
That was effectively that for West Brom’s Premier League status, but it certainly was not the end of the drama and incident.
Liverpool could and should have extended their lead when Lucas was denied by Kiely when through on goal, while Brunt hit the woodwork for The Baggies and Fortune headed over.
But if this game did not matter to Liverpool, then someone should have told Carragher and Arbeloa who exchanged angry words and half-hearted blows after the former judged the latter to have failed to close down Fortune quick enough when the ball fell to The Baggies’ striker in the box.
Further opportunities came and went for both sides as Fortune had the ball in the net before being adjudged offside and substitute Ryan Babel curled a shot wide when found in acres of space at the far post with minutes remaining.
The Baggies fans took relegation on the chin, chanting Mowbray's name at the final whistle, but ultimately their failure to turn good football into chances and goals cost them their top-flight status
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