Situated on the broadcasting gantry within Anfield’s main stand, Oliver Miller offers his view on Liverpool’s Premier League match against West Ham.
Victory came at a canter for Liverpool as they score four against West Ham
“A complete performance,” proclaimed Jurgen Klopp. Leapfrogging Manchester United into second place – albeit only overnight – was a “nice moment” but the way in which they did so was what pleased the Liverpool manager the most. It was once said at Anfield that ‘first is first, second is nothing’ but times have changed. The chance to be the best of the rest is a barometer of progress under Klopp. “The other teams are flying, so we have to fly as well,” said Klopp. Here was another example of Liverpool’s ability to soar.
Victory ultimately came at a canter for Klopp’s team at Anfield where the remaining fab three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane were not quite at their sublime best but nevertheless, all got themselves on the scoresheet. Their pace and movement was ultimately too much for the rather aged defence of West Ham who afforded them with plenty of time and space to operate and create. It was a 15th match at Anfield without a win for David Moyes and although his West Ham side were fortunate not to take the lead through Marko Arnautovic they did cause problems at both ends of the pitch in the first-half.
After the restart, however, and amid a howling wind and blistering sunshine, West Ham were blown away by the power of a Liverpool team that can score four and miss several more even when shy of their fluent best. Liverpool now have 103 goals this season – Salah has 31 – but their attacking play is so much more than just goals, as West Ham found out. The flair and creativity that the Anfield crowd see on a weekly basis is quite extraordinary and possibly even becoming rather expected.
Moyes’ plan was to defend in numbers and use the attractive attacking trio of Arnautovic, Joao Mario, and Manuel Lanzini on the counterattack anticipating that the rested Liverpool side would be ready and raring to go after 10 days without a match. The defensive set up succeeded to a degree before the interval with West Ham a threat whenever Arnautovic was on the ball. However, Liverpool did start strongly. A fast tempo was set and Salah could have got the fans on their feet barely two minutes in as his shot struck the inside of the post via the fingertips of Adrian.
Shortly after Virgil van Dijk headed straight at the West Ham goalkeeper from a James Milner corner and at that point, it seemed Anfield was set for another Liverpool onslaught. However, last-ditch defending and an impressive display from Arnautovic delayed it, although their defence was eventually breached by a set-piece when Emre Can headed home a corner at close range. The German rose above debutant Patrice Evra – who was greeted with the derision any former Manchester United player would be but with added spice – to score Liverpool’s 100th goal of the season.
Arnoutovic had almost opened the scoring with a cheeky chip that Loris Karius tipped superbly onto his crossbar. “I was hoping that the goalline technology would say it was over the line, but it was not to be,” said Moyes. The huge gasp from the fans in the main stand indicated just how close it was. Pablo Zabaleta also went close before the Liverpool goalkeeper denied Arnautovic for the second time. The West Ham fans – who were wearing their commemorative t-shirts to mark the 25th anniversary of Bobby Moore’s death – applauded their side off at half-time; there was hope, albeit only faint, but even that soon vanished after the restart.
Salah struck Liverpool’s second when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain steered the ball into his path inside the area. The Egyptian took one touch – as he often does – to make space for himself which the West Ham defence were only to pleased to offer him before cutting a left-footed shot back across goal and into the far corner. They might as well start printing on Liverpool’s match tickets you are guaranteed to see Salah score.
The floodgates then began to open. The third arrived shortly afterwards as the wind and weak West Ham defending helped Firmino to his 13th goal Premier League goal of the season. The breeze around Anfield could not be underestimated as Adrian’s free-kick held up and Mario attempted to control but – as was the case for much of the match – he was easily dispossessed by Can, who swept an inch-perfect chip into the unmarked Firmino. The Brazilian sidestepped the onrushing keeper and calmly converted into an empty goal.
On an afternoon that saw plenty of big scoring matches in England’s top two divisions – two 4-1s, two 3-3s, a 2-5, a 2-4, and a 3-3 – this game was certainly in keeping. Alistair Bruce-Ball and Terry Butcher who were providing the radio’s fastest goals service on BBC 5 Live could barely keep up and they almost missed Michail Antonio scoring a consolation goal for West Ham. The substitute had barely been on the pitch for a minute when he collected Kouyate’s pass down the right and found the far corner with a low shot across Karius.
However, Liverpool’s three goal cushion was restored when Mane – who had already struck the post with a gilt-edged chance created by Oxlade-Chamberlain – made amend to complete a flowing Liverpool move. Firmino released Robertson overlapping down the left and the full-back delivered an inviting first time cross for Mane to flick the ball over Adrian and in off the post. Beyond the goals, there was much for the Anfield crowd to appreciate; the energy of Robertson, the movement of Firmino, and the consistently dangerous final ball provided by Oxlade-Chamberlain. The ease and panache of Liverpool’s victory left the starkest impression as they made their case for being the best of the rest.