Liverpool continued where they left off just 3 days ago in the capital as Jürgen Klopp’s team climb to 3rd in the Premier League table after dismantling a toothless West Ham side. The champions recorded back-to-back away league wins for the first time this season and despite fresh injury woes the quality and class of the squad has shone through.
Joël Matip has been ruled out, once again, from the matchday squad although his manager revealed that there is hope that the injury to the Cameroonian is not as serious as first thought. Fabinho will be out at least until 7th February when title challengers and league leaders Manchester City visit Anfield.
With no senior centre-backs now fit at the club, Fenway Sports Group will be pressured now more than ever to back their manager and sign some much-needed reinforcements for the remainder of this season’s campaign. With the potential arrival of Preston North End’s Ben Davies, rumoured during the game to be finalising a £2million deal to Merseyside, things may be looking slightly rosier on the injury front for Liverpool.
For this game, it was the role of captain Jordan Henderson to lead the backline alongside 23-year-old Nathaniel Phillips.
Klopp had to dig further into his reserve players, as Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi started the game with Sadio Mane ruled out with a minor muscle injury and Roberto Firmino was reduced to the bench for the sole purpose of managing minutes.
For much of the first half, it appeared as if David Moyes went in with the game plan not too dissimilar to the opponents Liverpool have faced in the past few weeks; block four defence, hit back with quick transitions of pace and authority. The former tactic worked a treat for the Hammers as they stopped the creativity of the visitors for long periods of the opening 45 minutes and had the first chance of the game.
A congested box made it difficult for Benrahma to get off his shot, made even worse when Michail Antonio got in the way of the Algerian just outside the six-yard box. The ricochet fell to Fornals whose shot was on target but blocked on the way through by Milner, sending the ball deflecting towards goal but headed up and out of play by Robertson.
Much of West Ham’s pressure came from set-pieces that were conceded by Liverpool’s midfield such as when Thiago brought down Benrahma in the 37th minute. If the home team were going to score, it looked as if team organisation and the lack of senior central defenders for the visitors would play its part.
Coufal delivered a wicked ball into the box but it was Phillips who dealt with the aerial duel as he did for the entirety of the game. Whether it was in the middle of the pitch or facing his own goal it was clear that this young man was capable of rising higher than anyone playing on this evening.
The Redmen failed to register a single clear-cut chance in the first half and without a tame shot from Salah into the gloves of Fabiański and an ambitious eye of the needle pass from Thiago that reached Origi, breaking through the West Ham defence but with an angle not capable of worrying the Polish keeper, it looked as if it would be another tricky away evening for Klopp and his men.
Half time: West Ham United 0-0 Liverpool
No substitutions at half time for either side and it only took 3 minutes after the restart for the entertainment to arrive on the pitch as Origi broke down the left flank, unopposed until he made it inside the penalty area when the Belgian crossed inside for Salah whose shot was blocked by Cresswell before Fabiański had a chance to make a save.
Undoubtedly the best chance for the Irons to take the lead came in the 54th minute as Jared Bowen’s cross was not dealt with by the outstretched leg of Milner, allowing Antonio to pick the ball up inside Liverpool’s penalty area who took a touch to set up the shot but with not enough curl in the effort it was wide of the post.
That would be James Milner’s last action of the game as he was taken off for youngster Curtis Jones. The interaction between the veteran midfielder and his manager led many to believe he was dissatisfied with being taken off – little did he know that less than one minute later, his replacement would be involved in the build-up to the opening goal of the game.
Jones charged through the midfield on the break before passing wide to Alexander-Arnold. A ball forward to Shaqiri and a lay-off to Jones before slipping the ball through the backline for Salah to take Cresswell on before despatching a lethal finish into the top-left side-netting for the lead in the game for the Merseyside marvels made Milner’s substitution seem a masterstroke from the German manager.
When talking of masterstrokes, however, none deserves that accolade more than Salah’s second goal of the game. In the 68th minute, West Ham would have a corner that they have threatened from all game in which is headed by the first man, Robertson, to his fellow full-back on the other side of the box, Alexander-Arnold.
The diagonal pass somewhat 60 yards upfield was brilliant, the first time cross inside the box from 30 yards out from Shaqiri was outrageous and the touch to control the ball, on his weaker foot, and another to guide the ball past the goalkeeper from Salah was truly magnificent.
A goal that was vintage Liverpool – signature Jürgen Klopp.
The pressure continued to mount and to cap an almost perfect performance in the second half the combination of substitutes Oxlade-Chamberlain and Firmino worked wonders, as a backheel from the midfielder to the forward inside the box took four players out of the game and the squared pass to Wijnaldum who shot into the back of the net to seal the three points for the Anfield army.
An almost perfect performance, however, as the only chink in the armour was exposed finally in the 87th minute as the corner delivered into the box took a headed deflection out of the path of Phillips by Robertson and the flight path of the ball took it to the feet of Craig Dawson who simply tucked the ball away into the back of the net.
A drab first half and a stunning second-half from the Reds presented them with another much-needed win who take on Brighton next at Anfield. The clash between them and the Citizens from Manchester will have to wait as Graham Potter’s side got a draw against Klopp’s side when they faced off in the reverse fixture in November.
If Liverpool is going to get themselves back into the title race, every match is a must-win game and these past two away victories in London should be considered the hop before the skip and the jump for the club to return to the conversation of title retention.
Full time: West Ham United 1-3 Liverpool
West Ham: Fabianski (6), Cresswell (5), Coufal (6), Dawson (7), Ogbonna (6), Soucek (5), Rice (6), Fornals (5), Bowen (5), Benrahma (5), Antonio (5).
Subs: Yarmolenko (6), Noble (6), Fredericks (6).
Liverpool: Alisson (6), Alexander-Arnold (7), Henderson (8), Phillips (8), Robertson (6), Milner (7), Thiago (7), Wijnaldum (7), Salah (9), Shaqiri (7), Origi (6).
Subs: Jones (7), Firmino (7), Oxlade-Chamberlain (7).
Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah.