West Ham United 3 Liverpool 2
Saturday, 6th November 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham reached further heights on this wonderful David Moyes journey this Sunday, beating Liverpool 3-2 at the London Stadium in front of a raucous crowd and with a performance that merited the victory and all the plaudits that have come with it.With Arsenal winning earlier in the day to move level with his side on points, Moyes sent out an unchanged team under huge pressure to show they were up in the top four and belonged to be. Liverpool came into the game as the only unbeaten side in the league, the team with arguably the world's best player in Mo Salah and the memory of last season where West Ham were humbled and timid when colliding with one of the Premier League's giants.
This time was different. West Ham have grown, the players more confident and, maybe more importantly, the manager too. Never reckless, never trying to be something they're not to prove a point, but sure of themselves and with a trust that they can damage teams. As Pablo Fornals would say after the game, "whoever wants to be ahead of us has to come here and beat us." Today, Liverpool couldn't, and a message was sent.
It was a frantic game, one where West Ham's defence was constantly tested. It is undoubtedly a strength of this side, and there are likely no other teams with European ambitions who are so comfortable defending their own box and playing on the break. It is uncomfortable to watch as a fan, even when the side have earned that confidence in many games before, but there will also be few teams who can allow Liverpool to dominate and yet stop them creating much at all.
The start was perfect. Set pieces are back at for the Hammers after a slow start to the season, but it was not even a particularly brilliant one that forced the opening goal.
With four minutes on the clock, Fornals curled one in from the left hand side and the ball bent towards goal. With Antonio behind him and Ogbonna jumping in front of him, the ball spinning at Alisson was far too much for the Brazilian goalkeeper, rightly vaunted as one of the best in the world. The delivery sailed over the head of a jumping Ogbonna, but the Italian did enough - and did it fairly too - to distract and discomfort the Alisson, whose hands flew up and could only divert the ball into the back of his own net.
Of course, he flopped to the floor, claiming a foul, screaming for assault and begging another referee would do Liverpool a favour under pressure. Craig Pawson was unmoved, and so too were the VAR officials who saw no issue and awarded the goal to give the home side an early 1-0 lead.
The fans, who have been in fine voice this season, were lifted by the unexpected advantage and never stopped backing the team. It was an atmosphere reminiscent of times some thought were gone, one that will be remembered for a very long time.
The lead, so precious, so important, was there to be protected. For the next 30 minutes, there was little but Liverpool laying siege to the West Ham backline.
It was a little concerning how hard it became for West Ham to play, the excellent counter attack that had caused the corner for the goal a distant memory for the most of the second half. Under the watchful eye of prospective new investor Daniel Kretinsky, the defending was brave and belligerent. There clock passed 30 minutes before Klopp's side even had a shot on goal, and that was with a quite consistent and relentless pressure. The ball rarely passed the Liverpool backline and even rarer was the touch of a West Ham player in their half.
Most notable in the game were challenges, heavy challenges too. It will be debated on social media much longer than the performance analysis, such is the process of a Liverpool defeat, just what the punishment for an early Aaron Cresswell challenge on Henderson should have been. It was definitely strong, a little bit old school, but Cresswell won the ball fairly before the deflection off the ball threw his foot into the Liverpool captain. He stayed down hurt, without a limp once he did get up, but the referee waved any protests away. VAR checked it, VAR ignored it, and Cresswell was quite rightly not punished for what was something unfortunate rather than out of control or reckless.
Not long after, Ogbonna was down hurt. First a tight turn looked to have jarred his knee, Salah beating him in the box and only stopped by a fantastic recovery tackle by Cresswell. Having made it back onto the field, he was soon hit by a flailing elbow, Jota bracing for contact in the back and accidentally hitting the defender with his arm. It was not intentional, carried no malice, but is worth remembering if anyone brings up how intent does not matter in the eyes of the law. They will over the Cresswell challenge, so keep this in your back pocket.
With blood gushing from the wound, he was sent down the tunnel. Rather than wait for his stitches to be done, an already prepared Dawson was thrown into the fray.
West Ham continued to deal with the threat, which mainly came from crosses to the diminutive Jota. But with few minutes left in the half, Declan Rice had the audacity to touch Mo Salah near the penalty box.
There are two things to note here. First is that Salah felt the contact and then threw himself to the floor. You can argue either way for a foul or not, but the Egyptian forward has a nasty habit of conning referees in this manner. Secondly, what came next would have been much harder to produce had the referee not allowed Liverpool to move the ball back a small but significant distance from where the foul was made.
What happened next was quite excellent, that much is undeniable. A little touch from Alexander-Arnold to Salah moved the wall ever so slightly, and then the young full back strode forward and curled a ball over the wall and into the top corner with Fabianski rooted to the spot.
There were only a few minutes to go before the end of the half, the bubble burst as the resistant faltered. But there was no shellshock, no fear. If anything, the goal took the pressure off the performance and suddenly the players were back playing football and pushing Liverpool into their own half and their own box. With what was left of the half, West Ham had two huge openings.
How to describe the opportunity with Antonio is another one of those things that only an experience of the magic and mischief of that man can bring. Fornals and Benrahma combined perfectly and Antonio was suddenly behind the Liverpool defence with only desperate defenders running back to try get near him.
They couldn't, but unfortunately for the striker his own feet were there for his downfall. A few yards from the area, dribbling at goal, a soft touch saw him leave the ball behind as he carried on into the area alone.
That disappointment was thrown aside without much of a second thought.
This time, Benrahma was played into a space by a beautiful floated diagonal over the shoulder over Alexander-Arnold. The Algerian controlled it well and went into the box, looking up to cut it back and rolling it perfectly in front of Bowen in the centre of the area. His shot was struck sweetly, only for a quite fantastic sliding challenge by Van Dijk to thwart Bowen and what looked like an extremely dangerous chance.
The half ended 1-1 and the little salvo at the end was enough to make sure they went in at half time with the momentum shared, rather than entirely in Liverpool's favour after the late goal.
Coming out for the second half, that confidence on the ball returned and at no point did Liverpool really pin the Hammers back until the final moments.
In fact the better side on the ball were in claret and blue, and so came the chances too.
With Dawson on, an already dominant aerial threat had another level. Another perfect corner five minutes from Fornals found the centre back, and his towering header was unlucky to smash the bar and fly over.
Straight up the other end, Mane was presented with a just as seismic opportunity. The back-post pass they had tried and failed to beat young Ben Johnson with throughout the first half finally worked, floated precisely over his head and to the touch of Robertson. The Scot played in a perfect volleyed pass to Mane in the middle of the area, and the forward smashed it at goal with shouts of despair abounding. Thankfully, the shot was right at Fabianski and the goalkeeper did well to push it away with power.
In years gone by, these moments would have rocked us. Nowadays, it's seen as an annoyance, seen as something we won't let happen again.
The game was tight, led mainly by West Ham. Benrahma in particular was causing Alexander-Arnold problems, whilst Bowen took the discipline and endeavour of his first half grew into the game and got on the ball more and more to drive forward.
It was his running that proved vital with around 25 minutes left. After Rice won the ball inside the West Ham half, a quick and clever Fornals pass laid the ball off to Bowen. With his head up, the winger saw his space and burst forward. There were three around and he was anything but concerned, darting between all three as they attempted to crowd him out. With them in his rear mirror, driving through the centre of the Liverpool half, he looked up to see two options sprinting at goal and one defender trying to hold them.
The choice was Fornals to his left, Antonio to his right, the defender gambled on the striker and Bowen gambled on his Spanish teammate.
Fornals was through on the edge of the box and took his chance quickly, hitting across Alisson with his left boot. The shot was weak, it bobbled, but it caught the Brazilian short as he was moving to his right and not expecting the shot. Taking it early was a risk, and it was a risk rewarded as Alisson got down slow and could only get fingers to it as it squeezed beneath them and bounced into the back of the net.
The crowd was up, and so were the players. Unlike the first half, taking the lead was not followed by retreat and fear, which maybe proves the progression from last year where West Ham did not stand up to their illustrious opponents.
Antonio was bothering Van Dijk. Bowen had come up and against him and almost lost the ball through pure intimidation of the talent of his opponent. Antonio is a different man, a different beast, and ran at the Dutch defender. Maybe he is just so unpredictable that an intelligent defender cannot predict what he might do. But Antonio could turn him, and dribbling at the backline slipped Fornals through when most expected the defender to step out and take the ball. The shot was saved with the flag up, but the skill and story of it was what was more important.
If that big chance seemed a moment we could regret, it was with 15 minutes that the home side got some breathing space.
A corner, causing Liverpool problems all afternoon, was once again profitable. This time it was Bowen from the right, another ball whipped in at goal. The focus was on Dawson running near post, and no one followed Zouma to the far post. Unmarked and rising high only three yards from goal, he powered it beyond Alisson and sent the stands into raptures as West Ham had only quarter of an hour left to keep their lead and earn all three points.
Liverpool looked blunt, but West Ham are West Ham. It could not go without a fright, whether Halloween had passed or not.
Alexander-Arnold was tackled on the way through, but the ball bounced back to Origi. What followed was fantastic forward play, taking the ball down on the spin and then letting fly on the bounce with his left foot, rocketing into the corner with Fabianski rooted once more.
The fear spread, there was always going to be one more chance.
It came in stoppage time, another freekick, this time on the right side of the area. Curled in to the far post, Mane ghosted in unmarked. He ducked down and headed low to the far corner, but the West Ham contingent were relieved to see it roll wide of the goal.
There was nothing left, West Ham clinching a quite fantastic 3-2 win that they well deserved. Not only was it a famous one, a rare win over the Scousers in red, but a win that took this West Ham side above them into third place, joint second on points with Manchester City and only three points behind Chelsea.
We outplayed them, we attacked and defended brilliantly and sent a message. As the great Spaniard said, if you want to finish above us, come here and beat us.
West Ham are massive. In the title race? You decide.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Secure and made some catches, couldn?EUR(TM)t do anything about the goals either. The strong hands from the Mane shot were key, a shot hit centrally but fiercely. Had his reactions or positioning been off, that flies in.
Caught out once, and it was an inch perfect ball. They tested him, the 10 clearances a sign of that, and he stood up to it. No attacking presence but that wasn?EUR(TM)t the game, and any doubts about him against high quality opponents are completely gone having kept Mane and Sterling quiet in recent weeks.
The man is written off nearly every other week, but facing arguably the best player in the world, he never gave him an easy opening. There was always frantic cover, but the few moments there wasn?EUR(TM)t, Cresswell was good. One early recovery when Salah had beaten Ogbonna was brilliant. Best defensive performance from the full back in a long time.
It?EUR(TM)s a compliment to the midfield that the centre backs were mainly tested in the air. Zouma was good, playing well on both sides after Ogbonna?EUR(TM)s injury, and then popped up with the crucial third goal.
Looked injured, survived, then forced off by an elbow. Was holding his ground well until that point.
Unlucky to give away the foul for the freekick goal - Salah flops on any contact - but was fantastic. 10 recoveries, 6 duels won, a few of his now trademark slaloming runs to relieve pressure and start counters. Our midfield was better than theirs.
Compared to Rice, it looked a quieter performance. But his defending deep in front of the defence was fantastic and he protected the centre backs and Johnson so well on that side. He wasn?EUR(TM)t pushing forward much and let Rice do the roaming, but as almost a fifth centre back, he was brilliant around the box.
The performance midweek set the platform for this. All credit to him for his development in the defensive side because he?EUR(TM)s now married it with his attacking ability so that neither detracts from the other. Scared Alexander-Arnold with the ball at his feet and was more disciplined with it too.
Sensational. He was the man behind Antonio, he was running through on goal, then he was sitting beside Rice and disrupting attacks and defending with discipline. Some of his through balls were brilliant, he was key to starting counters with excellent passes and the key contributor for two goals, even if he won?EUR(TM)t be given the first. Irrepressible, irreplaceable and irresistible.
Defensively brilliant, never leaving Johnson alone as Robertson flew forward. And then his dribbling later in the game opened up Liverpool, before a perfect pass for Fornals to score. The corner for Zouma was excellent too.
Not his most threatening in front of goal but it almost didn?EUR(TM)t need to be. Others seemed intimidated in Van Dijk?EUR(TM)s presence, Antonio was not. He probably deserves assist for the goals from corners too as his mere presence seemed to blow Alisson?EUR(TM)s mind. It was hard work, working his defenders with channel running, physical pressure and retrieving the ball. It?EUR(TM)s these performances that make him so hard to replace, not his goalscoring.
(Replaced Ogbonna, 22) It?EUR(TM)s undeniably tough to get into the pace of a game like that, especially as Liverpool had forced us back. Dawson adapted well, was unlucky not to score with a header and defended well.
(Replaced Bowen, 84) Came in and was disciplined and energetic, which we needed.
(Replaced Benrahma, 86) Even a week ago, it seemed Masuaku was out of the manager?EUR(TM)s plans and probably not trusted. Today, he?EUR(TM)s thrown in to protect the lead during the tense ending and absolutely did his job.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Alisson 4 Pablo Fornals 67 Kurt Zouma 74 .
Booked: Tomas Soucek .
Sent off: None.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Matip, Robertson, Fabinho (Minamino 80), Henderson (c), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Thiago 69), Salah, Diogo Jota (Origi 76), Mane.
Subs not used: Kelleher, Williams, Tsimikas, Konate, Phillips, Morton.
Goals: Alexander-Arnold (41), Origi (83).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Man of the Match: Pablo Fornals.