Sunday, February 27, 2011

Terrific West Ham Withstood Late Liverpool Surge

Liverpool had not lost to West Ham in 17 meetings prior to this season's fixture at Upton Park. If Liverpool had thought that bottom-placed West Ham would be easy pickings, they were dead wrong. The Hammers came out with guns blazing and quickly took control of the match, outpassing and outrunning their more illustrious counterparts. Quite clearly the Europa League exertions had taken a toll on the Liverpool players as they were second to every ball.

The first half truly belonged to West Ham and they deserved their two goal lead at the end of a sterling first 45 minutes. Thomas Hitzlsperger got his first assist when he returned a pass for the inspirational Scott Parker to curl the ball beyond Pepe Reina. Not to be outdone, Demba Ba scored his third goal in two games when he guided a flying header into Reina's net. Liverpool five-man defence did not pick up the run of the Senegalese, allowing him to add the finishing touch to a nice Hammers move.

Liverpool were kept very quiet in the first half, and this was due to the constant West Ham pressure on Suarez and Kuyt. The Hammers also worked extremely hard in the middle of the pitch, making sure that the Reds could not execute their pass-and-move game.

Robert Green was surprisingly untested in the first half but when called upon, he did not disappoint. He, above all, kept Liverpool out when the Reds started threatening in the second half. Green made two world class save to stop first Suarez and then Gerrard at a time when Liverpool looked like breaking West Ham's resolve. He is the deserving Man of the Match for me.

Steven Gerrard as usual, led the Liverpool comeback but it seemed too little too late. Interesting to note that, Gerrard's influence on the game grew once Meireles came off. The Reds captain was anonymous in the first half, but once he moved into a more advanced role in the second half, Liverpool looked more dangerous. Unsurprisingly, Suarez also got better when he began to see more of the ball. His cross-cum-shot allowed Glen Johnson to bundle the ball home. Joe Cole, on the other hand, continued to disappoint. Sadly, Joe's Liverpool  and Premier League career looked over judging from this performance.

With West Ham on the backfoot, Avram Grant brought on Carlton Cole. It was a masterstroke, as Carlton Cole outmuscled the poor Martin Skrtel and blasted a shot past a subdued Reina. 3-1 to the Hammers, and nobody would have dreamt of this scoreline at the start of the afternoon!

Prior to this match, West Ham have scored at least three goals in four of their last five matches but have not kept a clean sheet in nine. The Hammers did not disappoint today with another three goals and conceded one. Simply a great afternoon of football, can West Ham perform another incredible relegation escape?

As for Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish will need to reflect on two injury concerns, Raul Meireles' knee and Martin Kelly's hamstring. The Reds' next match is against Manchester United, Andrew Carroll should be fit for that. Is the young giant ready to start next week?

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