Ah yes, a trip up to Anfield, a proper football stadium nestling like a jewel amongst the terraced houses and the burnt out cars. I'm always grateful to the Scouse fans for letting me know about the acute mugging threat in the streets. Sound advice that, never walking alone in Liverpool.
It's a place that no West Ham fan in their right mind relishes visiting, given the historic record, one win since 1963. Luckily, I was there when we did 'em 3-0 last time. What a glorious day that was in the August sunshine. I was walking around like a dog with two dicks after that. There is no greater sound than Scouse (particularly Plastic Scouse) high pitch whining. Music to my ears.
The talk in The Arkles pub pre-match was about how Oxford Fred had a brief encounter with a mysterious oriental lady at Bicester station on the way up. Fred looked quite pleased about that until I politely enquired whether he was absolutely sure that 'she' was a lady. "I'm 85% sure", he conceded.
We also had a quick natter about the march at the next home game. I'm sure a lot of loyal fans are talking about that.
We all know what we don't like, but what do we want? Is it just about group therapy, letting out all the frustration (as legitimate as that is) or is there some mileage in some positive suggestions for the future? Sorting out the London Stadium is at the top of my list. It still breaks my heart to say it but we ain't going back to the Boleyn. That is over. The vandals have bulldozed my beloved East Stand and I'm now sitting in a fake East Stand. I admit it, I'm Fake ESM.
The club has gotta improve the London Stadium. A little pointer about a better match day for us Irons was on display outside Anfield today, a fan zone where there were some small pitches for kids to have a game and a big old screen to watch the early game and have a beer. They've got a similar set up at West Brom. OK, so the experience down at Stratford needs a lot more than that - getting near the pitch would help the most - but all I want is to feel excited going to home games again. At the moment I just feel numb or almost indifferent. It isn't like going to a football match. That makes old ESM very sad, my friends.
Here's a loaded pistol, and there's the study
'Sack the Board' is easy to chant but it's not realistic. It's like asking the Terrible Three to fire themselves. A better demand is to send out a worldwide plea for someone to buy 'em out. Anyone got any contacts for bored plutocrats that actually know something about football and won't drop us into an even bigger crock of sh*t? OK, maybe not. Perhaps that's where the march will help most. It's like a big old billboard: "Come and get us!"
Anyway, respect to those whose passion has motivated them to try and inject a bit of our own East London DNA back into the club. That's where we come from. That's who we are. We are Zombie West Ham at the moment. Like we've been killed but we're still walking around like the undead.
Car theft is a crime
Whenever I arrive at Mickey Central, it's impossible not to break into my favourite songs, namely "You're Scouse, you've got no roof on your house" (tune: Blue Moon) and "We've got Di Canio, you've got our stereos" (tune: La Donna e Mobile).
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Arriving at our seats and getting buffeted by a Baltic northern gale, we found a free t-shirt waiting commemorating the 25th anniversary of the sad and premature loss of our hero, my hero, Bobby Moore. According to ESM Jnr, you can buy one on Ebay. If they are the shirts from Anfield, why go immediately out to coin it online? Some people just have no f*cking respect. Viva Bobby Moore.
Out came the team. ESM Jnr was not too impressed with the omission of Chicharito given that he has actually been scoring goals and looking like much more of a threat. Lanzini was back and what we all would have given to see a repeat of his performance here two and a half years ago.
A trip to the dole office
After the traditional rendition of 'Sign on', we made the first move as Arnie burst forward in the first minute, but the ball was nicked off his foot near the box. Liverpool immediately countered, and a rapid move saw Firmino lay off a pass to Salah. Somehow, the lethal striker hit the far post.
6 minutes in and the one-twos and movement around our box was mesmerising. Alexander-Arnold cut in and Zabaletta had to be on hand to head away under the crossbar. From the resulting corner, VVD headed into the hands of Adrian.
Arnie was looking dangerous and on 9 minutes, he broke menacingly forward. We were all expecting a shot, but it all broke down with his failed pass to Joao near the box.
It was all a bit end to end and the game was moving at a very fast pace. We were almost undone on 11 minutes as a dink over the top of or defence found Salah, but Zabaletta was on hand to see the ball out to safety.
Pure brilliance by Arnie to shrug off Matip on 14 minutes saw him nearly chip Karius audaciously, but somehow the 'keeper appeared to get something on it to tip onto the crossbar. You may recall my comparisons to Cantona in previous match reports, well that was out of the French legend's book.
A further chance then followed for West Ham on the quarter hour as Arnie's trickery around the Liverpool box saw a shot rebound to Zabaletta steaming into the box. He took it on the volley but smashed it wide of the far post.
We were certainly in this game and competing strongly, with Noble putting himself on the line on the edge of the box to stop Milner in his tracks on 19 minutes.
The travelling Irons then caroused Henderson with a rousing chorus of "You're just a sh*t Mark Noble" as he warmed up. It was small payback for the Scouse booing and chanting against Evra, no doubt because of the showdown with the biter, Luis Suarez. Typical Mickeys, trying to re-write history in a way that suits them. The player that (like Coutinho) left for bigger and better things was found guilty of abuse against Patrice, banned for eight games and fined 40 grand. That is a fact.
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Zabaleta was having a decent game and he had to be alert to steal the ball of Mane in the box on 25 minutes, and a couple of minutes later, Adrian made a good save to keep out a dipping shot from Arnold. From the resulting corner, it looked like we let ourselves down by allowing Charlie Chan a free header into the net. He steamed in six yards out and Evra couldn't handle the German. Adrian was protesting loudly, it was not clear why, but it could have been about Milner who was standing right in front of him in what looked like an offside position.
It was a shame to concede like that as we had certainly held our own and created chances.
We were under siege down our right, particularly by Robertson who seemed to be finding space too easily. This bloke is rapid and he had an excellent game. We struggled to cope with him. On 31 minutes he fed Chan who shot wide and then sent over a dangerous cross to find Salah at the far post who headed over when he should have hit the target.
Much hilarity followed this move as a random Scouser who'd been giving it large got lifted by stewards from the stand close to the away support. "Get a job, get a job", the claret and blue army helpfully suggested to the departing home fan.
The pace, movement and passing of Liverpool was frightening at times and our defence had to be super alert. Ginge did well on 38 minutes to make a brilliant tackle on the edge of the box.
We were still hunting down opportunities with Arnie not quite controlling a ball forward from Zabaletta on 40 minutes. Then a minute later, Arnie found some space on the left side of the box to hit a powerful shot which probably came at a good height for Karius who saved at a stretch.
The final action of the half was a free kick awarded to Liverpool in a dangerous position in the 46th minute just outside our box after Milner was supposedly brought down. It was in a great position for Salah, but he hit the wall and the ball spun away to safety.
A quick review at half time led to agreement that we weren't playing too bad at all, but clearly the Mickeys are playing with great confidence given their recent run. To go in one down was maybe a little harsh and probably the very tip of a finger had denied Marko. Level terms might have been a fairer reflection. We all knew that conceding a second would mean that we would have a mountain to climb.
Unfortunately, despite the decent showing in the first half, the second half went tits up. First, the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain went on a serpentine run and set up Salah for his 31st goal rather fortuitously after a ball bounced off his knee. Salah, who looks unplayable at times, slotted home with ease.
Liverpool were looking rampant and we all feared the worse. Oxlade-Chamberlain broke free on 55 minutes but shot into the side netting. Then on 57 minutes it really was game over as a poor clearance by Adrian saw Joao easily muscled out the way by Can. The ball was lifted over the top, Adrian came steaming out, missed the ball and left Firmino with an empty net.
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Moyes made the change with Antonio for Lanzini who'd had a game where he was clearly looking for match fitness after his injury. The substitution looked inspired as he got a goal back almost straight away after 59 minutes. The goal came after it looked like a rather sluggish Noble had lost a tackle but Kouyate snapped it up and released Antonio down the right channel. He took on VVD and found enough space to put it in the far corner.
Liverpool remained dangerous and just two minutes after our goal, Adrian had to deny Firmino. "We're only here for the t-shirts", ironically sang the Irons faithful.
Evra won a free kick 30 yards out on 66 minutes and a decent delivery came in from Cresswell, but Arnie could only loop his header over.
A fourth goal from Liverpool looked certain on 74 minutes as Cresswell made an error and allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain to feed a pass to Mane. With just Adrian to beat, he inexplicably poked his shot onto the post with the goal gaping.
The missed sitter was not costly though as on 78 minutes the fourth came as Robertson flew down the West Ham right and passed across goal to Mane who dinked it into the roof of the net.
The only other event of note was an almost insulting double substitution for West Ham with just six minutes left with Chicharito for Arnautovic and Rice for Joao Mario. If I were Hernandez, I would be fuming. Joao had been largely missing in the second half and probably should have some off earlier.
To be honest we were well beaten, and we were very much second best in the second half after a decent performance in the first half.
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The relegation scrap is phenomenal at the moment, and it would have been a brave (or foolish) West Ham to say we would get anything out of this game given Liverpool's recent rich vein of form. The Mickeys are flying and are scoring for fun. It was by no means a poor display by West Ham, although there were errors that we could have done without.
We all know what this means. We now travel to Swansea for a huge game where a loss would really put us in a bad position, despite a run of decent form. I am going to let you into a dark ESM secret, my mum's Welsh. Don't worry, she also bought me my first ever West Ham shirt, not long after Bobby lifted the Jules Remy Trophy. I love you, mum. Viva Bobby Moore. I'm looking forward to the trip to Wales already.
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo (7) Made some good, albeit comfortable saves. Tremendous distribution all afternoon and expertly covered for his defence with balls in behind.
Pablo Zabaleta (7) Very lively all afternoon in attack and in defence. Much more comfortable as a wing back as opposed to a central midfield role that he has been playing in recent games.
Aaron Cresswell (6) Was allowed some freedom to go forward despite his position as a centre-back. Carried out a more defensive role in the second half.
Angelo Ogbonna (6) Partnered up decently with Collins and Cresswell. Very composed on the ball when pressured.
James Collins (7) Kept tabs on the Watford attacking three very well, in spite of not matching them in speed.
Mark Noble (5) Significantly lacked pace going forward and wasn't too convincing in defence either.
Cheikhou Kouyate (6) Recovered well following his poor performance the week before. A force to be dealt with going forward and a sturdy figure in defence.
Joao Mario (6) Played an important part in West Ham's atacking spree in the first half, but gradually fell away as they sat back in the second half.
Michail Antonio (7) Terrorised Daryl Janmaat down the left with his sheer pace and strength, despite being in an unfavoured wing-back position.
Marko Arnautovic (9) Had the opposing defence on their toes. Full of confidence and very able to beat a player. Made up for his poor miss in the first half with a goal in the second.
Javier Hernandez (8) Excellent work rate coming up trumps with the goal to give his side the lead. Good to see him enjoying his football again following the uncertainty about his future at the Club.
Sam Byram (6) (Replaced Mario) Didn't pose the same threat as Antonio and was very isolated up front.
Declan Rice (6) (Replaced Arnautovic) Saw the game out for a little more first team experience.
Jordan Hugill (6) (Replaced Hernandez) Ran his socks off in his brief spell on the field, proving a point to the manager and to the fans who appreciated the effort.
Joe Hart (0) Did not play.
Patrice Evra (0) Did not play.
West Ham United: Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo, Pablo Zabaleta, Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna, James Collins, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Joao Mario, Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez.
Substitutes: Sam Byram, Declan Rice, Jordan Hugill, Joe Hart, Patrice Evra.
Goals: Javier Hernandez 38 Marko Arnautovic 78
Booked: Pablo Zabaleta
Liverpool: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Matip, Robertson, Can, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane (Moreno 87), Salah (Solanke 87), Firmino (Lallana 82).
Subs not used: Mignolet, Lovren, Gomez, Henderson.
Goals: Can (29), Salah (51), Firmino (56), Mane (77)
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Man of the Match: Mark Noble