West Brom go tumbling down
Steven Gerrard competes for the ball with West Bromwich Albion's Shelton Martis. (AP Photo)
Birmingham - Steven Gerrard masked the disappointment of not being able to get his hands on the Premier League trophy for yet another season by claiming one of the goals that eased Liverpool to a 2-0 victory on Sunday and confirmed West Bromwich Albion's relegation.
Sir Alex Ferguson's latest title success at Manchester United, 24 hours earlier, equalled Liverpool's collection of 18, which will have added to the pain at not being able to sustain their own, most concerted challenge since the inception of the Premier League.
This was a dead rubber for manager Rafael Benitez.
Liverpool could have been forgiven for lacking the purpose and focus that had generated genuine title hopes.
But it was still enough to despatch Albion back to the Championship, just 12 months after they had regained Premier League status.
Albion will return to the Championship because the spirited resistance they discovered came too late and because of their propensity for defensive mistakes that have been exploited throughout the campaign.
The errors have been ruthlessly punished and few have been more culpable than Shelton Martis. After 27 minutes of Albion dominance and reason for still dreaming about salvation - the central defender made another in his long litany of catastrophic errors.
He allowed himself to be caught in possession 30 yards from goal by Gerrard and he readily accepted the gift to chip over Dean Kiely.
Tony Mowbray's side had no reasons to be de-motivated, they were still fighting for their lives and could easily have been ahead inside five minutes.
Chris Brunt's corner skimmed off the head of Fernando Torres and only Pepe Reinas double save at the far post prevented Jonathan Greening squeezing his shot home.
Albion have had little in the shape of good fortune this season and key decisions continued to go against them when referee Martin Atkinson refused to award a penalty against Lucas for a blatant foul on Marc Antoine Fortune - as the on loan striker from Nancy tried to slide Juan Carlos Menseguez' cross into an empty net.
There was to be no repeat of West Brom's great escape under Bryan Robson four seasons ago. That was confirmed when Dirk Kuyt ran unchallenged to the edge of the area before measuring a powerful shot beyond Kiely just after the hour mark.
Mowbray's difficult task now is to persuade key players, like Borja Valero, Robert Koren and Fortune to remain with the club next season to mount an attempt to regain their Premier League status at their first attempt.
He has already admitted that he fears his squad could be broken up by the instant return to the second tier of English football, although one player who will almost certainly not be part of their Championship campaign is Czech Republic international Roman Bednar.
He has been suspended while the club conducts an internal enquiry into allegations of him being involved in purchasing drugs.
Bednar was pictured in The News of the World allegedly buying cocaine and cannabis near his home in Birmingham. He claims he was buying them for a friend and not for his own use, but now almost certainly faces being sacked by Albion chairman Jeremy Peace.