Liverpool earned a crucial three points on Saturday, when they overcame West Brom in a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Anfield. The pre-match build-up was full of controversy, with Mario Balotelli dropped for Rickie Lambert - but it was the first three points since August 31st for the Reds. After a relatively quiet first half, in which Saido Berahino could have opened the scoring for the visitors, it was the Reds who took the lead right on half-time through a moment of magic from Adam Lallana. The 26-year-old jinked between a few opponents, before playing a neat one-two to Jordan Henderson who calmly flicked a ball with his inner heel back towards the former Southampton captain and he placed a lovely left-footed effort beyond Ben Foster and into the far corner. The Baggies responded after the interval and were the better team. They took advantage of it too, when Dejan Lovren brought down Berahino after the youngster had sped past him and though the challenge was half-yard outside the box, referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot - giving Alan Irvine's side the perfect opportunity to equalise. Berahino duly obliged, sending Mignolet the wrong way to make it 1-1 on 55 minutes. The lead didn't last long. Raheem Sterling found his way into the box before being bundled over by Craig Gardner and with the majority of Anfield screaming for a penalty, the 19-year-old shot back up to his feet and teed up Henderson who ran onto it and found the far corner of the net with a beautifully placed finish. Both sides had further opportunities to change the game, but couldn't take them and Brendan Rodgers' side held on for a much-needed win. But what did we learn from the game?
1. Could Gerrard be played in the no.10?
With 15 minutes remaining, Rodgers opted to bring on Lucas and ensure the home side saw out the three points - but rather than switch him for Steven Gerrard, or switch to a system with two defensive midfielders, Liverpool fans were to be treated to a brief throwback of the good old days, as their captain was thrust into the no.10 role. The 34-year-old hasn't been so high up the pitch in some time, but put in such an inspired performance that he's being genuinely considered for a shock move further forward. Since January, the Reds have become accustomed to the skipper sitting back and dictating from his defensive anchor position but against West Brom he gallivanted back and forth in the final third as if he was 26 again. It was a sight to behold, as he linked up rather magnificently with Mario Balotelli with a few one-touch quick passes outside the box. He charged up and down, intercepting defenders and playing pin-point passes into feet brought back memories of the days in which he roamed about linking up with Fernando Torres in his prime. It may have only been a temporary measure, but it worked and perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea to see Rodgers do similar in games against such opposition. It was a great move from the Liverpool boss, perhaps a counter to the substitutes introduction of Youssuf Mulumbu, a powerful midfielder who runs from deep. However, he was too busy trying to occupy Gerrard further forward rather than trying to trouble the Liverpool skipper. Maybe when the 34-year-old is being tightly man-marked like against Aston Villa and West Ham, it wouldn't be so bad to see him pushed further forward and seeing what he can do.
2. Sterling needs a rest.
Raheem Sterling has played 554 minutes so far this season, only less than everpresents Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet. It's clear for all to see that though he's just 19-years-old, Sterling is quickly becoming one of the most important players in the Liverpool side. The Reds are working hard to secure his long-term future, such is the impact he has made on them after just over 18 months ago he was deemed a player who may not live up to his talents. Now, he's done that and more. In the no.10, Sterling is at times unplayable and has begun to produce the timely moments of brilliance that the club requires. However, recently Sterling has looked a little jaded. He was rested against Aston Villa in fear of burn out, and yet played 120 minutes against Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup and it looks as if it has taken it's toll. Against Basel and West Brom this week, his first touch has evaded him and though he's embarked on those mazy dribbles that bamboozle defenders so much, he's struggled with his end product and even his decision making. It's evident that he needs a rest but with important games coming thick and fast, Rodgers can ill-afford to lack his spark in the final third and he faces a dilemma. Does he rest Sterling and face risking his side's performanes, or does he rest him, risk the results and hope for a long-term benefit?
3. Johnson's still got it in him.
Perhaps the most surprising moment of the game, which may sound harsh, was how well Glen Johnson did after coming on as a substitute. His introduction may have warranted some moans and groans after his performances for say, the last 18 months, but after he replaced Javi Manquillo he put in a very solid performance at right-back. Having been on the sidelines since August with an injury sustained versus Manchester City, Johnson returned with a point to prove and put in a determined display. He has been the butt of abuse and criticism in recent months for his below-par performances and lack of effort, but he seemed to have learned from that against West Brom. His passing, movement and tackling were all very impressive and he put in an all-rounded performance that helped Liverpool see out the victory. Fans will be hoping this one isn't just a one-off.
4. Penalty decisions don't exclusively go Liverpool's way.
Across a range of social networking sites, Liverpool have become more often known as 'Penaltypool' in recent months. Simply, due to the sheer amount of spot-kicks Liverpool have earned as a result of their exciting brand of attacking football. In 2013-14 alone, they won 12 and they've won a further two in all competitions this season - both of which Steven Gerrard stuck away. However, though they've become jokingly known for their consistent ability to win penalties - they don't always go the Reds' way, as they found out against West Brom. When Lovren hauled down Berahino, the Croatian expected the referee to award a costless-kick but Oliver miraculously pointed to the spot. It was a harsh decision and luckily one that Liverpool got away with when Henderson restored the lead less than five minutes later, but it's a sign that the Reds won't be having it all their way like they did for much of last season, and it's going to be a much tougher route to the top four, should they get there.
5. Henderson, a future captain?
Quite rightly, Jordan Henderson was awarded the vice-captaincy earlier this season. Taking over from Daniel Agger who left for Brondby in the transfer window, the hard-working midfielder was chosen as the successor and it's obvious why. Consistent doesn't quite come close, and though he's often branded simply a "runner" in midfield - Henderson actually does much more than meets the eye. The 24-year-old shone versus West Brom, notching a goal and an assist - both of very high-quality. Later into the game, Rodgers decided to push Henderson a little further forward offering Liverpool more attacking impetus. His technical ability and creativity was profound, as he created four chances and completed 87% of his passing. After harrying around and protecting his skipper for much of the game, Henderson was still able to have enough energy to influence the game in the final third - scoring the winning goal with a sublime finish. At just 24, Henderson has plenty to bring to the table and can only get better, particularly once given the license to roam forward from deep.