Liverpool breezed past West Ham 4-1 at Anfield to claim second spot in the Premier League table. Although, Manchester United have a chance to regain the runners up place if they beat Chelsea, it is another massive step forward for Jurgen Klopp’s men. A set piece header from Emre Can was followed by second half goals from Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Antonio did pull one back for the Hammers after being 0-3 down, but it was all too late for them. A vital win for the Reds to keep their consistent run in the league going, it is now 1 loss in 19 games.
Let us now analyse the game as to how it went and also the crucial moments which led to game-changing moments.
The start and pattern of the game was all what we expected from both teams. Liverpool being the superior side dominated possession and West Ham with their 5-4-1 formation had numbers behind the ball. The home team were happy to go wide and switch plays on regular occasions rather than playing through the lines. As the West Ham defence were very narrow defending the narrow front-line of Liverpool, the fullbacks Andrew Robertson and Trent Arnold had spaces in the wide areas to take a touch and look for their next passes.
However, Marko Arnautovic was always a threat on the break for the Hammers. Moyes selected the Austrian ahead of Antonio simply of the fact that he is in great scoring touch and is a bit more physical in the hold-up play which allowed his other teammates to follow up.
The first Liverpool goal though was a soft one to concede as far as the away side are concerned. A corner was played a little deep by Salah and with some tall defenders in their lineup, West Ham couldn’t deal with the situation surprisingly. They went man-on-man marking in the box but the goalkeeper was blocked off which allowed Can to have a header ahead of Patrice Evra. It was actually wrong man marking as Can would always over-power Evra in a physical battle in the box.
Post half-time, the one key thing for West Ham was to stay in the game and look to nick the equaliser later. But, Liverpool had other ideas, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain made a diagonal run through the midfield of the opposition and got a bit lucky (he deserved that luck) to get the ball to Salah. The Egyptian was clever in the box again, hitting the shot through the legs of Aaron Cresswell to beat the keeper. When a ball comes through a defender, the keeper doesn’t stand a chance even though the speed is less.
At this stage, the one thing Moyes feared was a hiding and the scoreline to become embarrassing. Very soon, 2-0 became 3-0. For some reason, West Ham got very high in their defending line, a less than convincing clearance from Adrian was won by Liverpool in midfield. It was then an easy task for Can to pick out Roberto Firmino who was onside, kept by Zabaleta. The number 9 then got the ball past the onrushing Adrian and picked up his 3rd no-look finish of the season.
The Hammers did pull one back from Antonio when Can lost the ball in midfield in a counter-attacking situation. Kouyate played the ball on the side of Van Dijk with Robertson going very high to join the attack got caught out of the situation. Antonio then had the pace and quality to slot the ball past Loris Karius far post to make it 3-1. This was the moment when cool heads were required from the home side to keep the control in the game. And control they did arrest in the game.
They passed it slowly in defence and midfield, allowing West Ham to come at them so that gaps are created in between the lines. The slow passing did one thing is sucked the momentum out of the away side. They were thinking of a possible comeback but the home side were very clever to slow the game down and just pick their moments to carve out an opening.
This space between the lines was well picked out when Firmino recieved the ball on the half-turn in between a large space of defence and midfield. The Brazilian kept running with the ball and Robertson was very willing from left-back to join in to create space. The striker eventually played the ball to the left-back who ran the yards to set up a simple tap-in for Mane. At 4-1, the game was done and dusted with ease.
There were two distinct things which stood out throughout the game which must have impressed Klopp. The first was the willingness from his fullbacks to go up and down regularly, to be a threat in the attack but also remain diligent while defending too.
The other thing was the diligence from the team to slow the game down when it was needed at the moment West Ham got a goal and were looking a bit more threatening to make a comeback. At this point, the midfield and defence stood tall and passed it around with calmness and also went hard to win second balls.
James Milner was another influence of the highest order in terms of winning challenges in midfield and also driving his team forward on several occasions. Chamberlain was also very powerful in midfield with his physicality and the ability to dribble past people in central areas. His run to set up Salah for the goal was a perfect example of that.
The overall performance was very professional from the Reds which has got them up to second in the table. Now, pressure is on Manchester United to beat Chelsea to regain that spot. People should mark the calendar of the game between United and Liverpool at Old Trafford (10th March). It might be the game which decides who comes second in the table this season.