Premier League
West Ham United 1 Liverpool 1

Monday, 4th February 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

An excellent counter-attacking performance from West Ham saw the Irons draw at home with Liverpool this evening, ending a run of three straight defeats.

Yet it could have been all three points - had an offside flag been raised in the build up to a Liverpool goal.

Fantastic individual performances allied with the work of a wonderful team display earned Pellegrini's side a 1-1 draw, yet they will rue the poor officiating that gave the away side an undeserved goal.

West Ham started the game well. Inclusions for Cresswell and Hernandez saw a slight change in the West Ham side, but it was most notable that Manuel Pellegrini changed the shape of the team. Snodgrass was brought into the middle and a more rigid 4-5-1 gave the side a sturdier feel, competing in the middle and using the width of Antonio and Anderson to break.

It was a more practical approach to facing a title contender than the Manchester City performance, but it was not one where the Hammers sat in just to defend.

Felipe Anderson was at his confident best, beating players and defending well to, snatching up any loose ball then driving at Liverpool, especially feeling strong against makeshift right back Milner.

And West Ham would have gone into half time with a deserved lead were it not for the assistant referee, whose decision making was only slightly worse than his 11-year-old-gangster haircut.

After a strong start that saw Cresswell drive a shot just wide from 20 yards and Hernandez take on maybe his best ever effort from outside the area, it was Liverpool who took the lead.

With Lallana under pressure down the right wing, Milner ran beyond him. Lallana may well have done to get the ball out and through the pressure, his pass to Milner found the right back at least 3 yards offside, barely a metre in front of the assistant referee.

From there, the cross found Mane, who had the space to spin, turn and then place the ball into the net from six yards. There was little Fabianski could do, but Ogbonna could be guilty of having let Mane get into too much space. It was the first real sight of goal the away side had had, 22 minutes in, and the world was surprised to see an official giving Liverpool an unfair advantage that led to a goal, in a half full of decisions given consistently their way.

But West Ham weren't to be kept down. They continued to press, harass and bite at Liverpool in midfield and then push out to break. Hernandez was proving his worth too, getting in ahead of the centre backs consistently to win possession of loose balls and draw fouls.

Five minutes later, the scores were levelled.

It came from a clever freekick routine from 30 yards, with all Liverpool's focus on the tall attacking threat.

Anderson and Snodgrass stood over the ball. Anderson laid a touch to Snodgrass, who set it back dutifully, only for Anderson not to cross, instead rolling with a perfectly weighted pass behind the high line.

Antonio spun into space, driving a finish just inside the area against the far post and 1-1. It was the least the Hammers deserved. Antonio has now scored four goals in his five Premier League games against Liverpool, more than he has managed against any other side.

From there, the pattern of the half remained much the same way. Liverpool controlled most of the ball, but West Ham offered more threat in the moments they got it back, facilitated by a strong shape and runners like Snodgrass and Anderson always looking to break.

Freekicks continued to offer a route to goal. Anderson's deliveries were excellent, one finding Hernandez on the far edge of the penalty area, only for the Mexican to try a running first-time volley that ballooned in the air.

The next was far more dangerous. This time it dropped in centrally and the Liverpool defence stayed planted. Declan Rice didn't, but he drove into the area and met the ball from 8 yards with his head. It flew just past the post, agonisingly close.

The half wore down to an uneventful end, giving fans and players a chance to catch their breath.

The second half started with no changes in personnel and no changes in approach. The flow of the game was much the same, Liverpool controlling the ball but not finding anything effective, whilst West Ham forced their creative players into narrow spaces and looked to break away whenever possible.

West Ham should have taken an early second half lead too, with Diop missing a glorious headed chance from 6 yards after a wonderful corner. Much like his defending at the back, his lack of ability to physically dominate in the air was on show with an awkward jump and tentative header.

It didn't detract from the level of performance on show. Antonio, moving gingerly since the first half, was working hard and played with much tighter control of the ball than usual, calmer in possession and better in tight spaces. Rice was winning balls in his customary fashion, making 8 tackles in the game and 2 interceptions, whilst Ogbonna, Cresswell and Fredericks all stood out in defence.

With time wearing on, Salah started to find space between the lines, but also found that turning to head into the box gave limited room to manoeuvre, his shots often weak due to pressure around him.

And still West Ham played good counters, only really let down by their final ball. Antonio, Cresswell, Snodgrass and Anderson all guilty on multiple occasions of playing the wrong pass at the crucial moment.

The big chance then came. Rice won possession once more in midfield and drove forward, taking two out of the game with his running and pass. Anderson took it on, feeding Snodgrass down the line.

The Scotsman made it to the byline and played the cut-back to Anderson, who darted into the area. A little loose control fed Noble, whose instinctive, first-time jabbed volley beat the goalkeeper, but dropped over the goal.

Really, Liverpool were creating nothing. Yet, the assistant referee still had a part to play.

He watched complacently as a ball bounced through to Divock Origi, 93 minutes played and none left in stoppage time. Origi was yards offside, but the rules mattered little to Liverpool again. Thankfully for West Ham, Origi fluffed his lines.

The final whistle blew, the London Stadium erupted in relief, mostly at no more injustice being done. West Ham had deserved to win, yet came away with a hard-fought point.

And it was a great point to get, playing against both Liverpool and the officials, who were magnanimously blamed by Jurgen Klopp at full time with all the self-awareness of a Liverpool fan.

It did prompt Pellegrini to deliver the kind of retort an audience could fall in love with, dismissing the complaints of the Liverpool manager, saying "Klopp is used to winning with goals offside. He beat me at Malaga with a goal that was seven metres offside. So he can't complain about anything."

It may have been six years in the past, but it was passionate and dismissive enough to bring smiles to all West Ham fans who heard it, and probably any fans outside of the red in Liverpool too.

West Ham are now unbeaten in three consecutive home Premier League games for the first time since February 2018, and a little pride has been restored. Next is to find a way to bring this resolve and discipline into games with teams around us.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Calm and assured, his handing was excellent and he did everything he could in his goal to perfection. Kicking has got loose.


Ryan Fredericks
A surprise inclusion, but a masterful one. His pace was vital to protect behind the centre backs, whilst he fought manfully down the flank all game. The making of him in West Ham shirt.


Aaron Cresswell
His recent spell in the team has seen him back to his best, and he was again brilliant here. Fantastic at both ends, his confidence is up. Took the armband when Noble went off.


Issa Diop
Played fine, but was outshone by those around him. Doesnít struggle in these games, itís the physical teams he dislikes.


Angelo Ogbonna
A truly inconsistent player. This week, Ogbonna was excellent. Made vital interceptions and dominant ones too, pushing out of defence to take things he could well have sat off. Questions around the goal, although his initial line was perfect.


Declan Rice
Making the difficult look simple, his 8 tackles, 2 interceptions, 27 passes and growing ability to play forward were all evident.


Mark Noble
A good game, he does perform well when the midfield is forced deep and a scrap is on. Passed forward well, marshalled the midfield and played one exquisite first time volley cross the pitch.


Felipe Anderson
Liverpool were scared of him and Anderson had his swagger on. Created multiple chances and threatened on the counter, with the whole side looking to give him the ball. Also made 3 interceptions, a game high, and worked his socks off.


Robert Snodgrass
His final ball when attacking lacked what it needed, but his presence in midfield was vital. Hassled and harried the Liverpool midfield, won freekicks to relieve pressure, a combative energy that has been missing recently. A return to form.


Michail Antonio
Could well have been on the way out in summer, scored again against Liverpool. Worked hard, protected his right back yet supported the attacks. The finish was perfect.


Javier Hernandez
Isolated at times, but was often very clever in his body position. Just sat in front of the centre backs when his teammates won flicks, either holding possession or drawing fouls. A good display, if unspectacular.



Substitutes

Andy Carroll
(Replaced Hernandez) Seemed an odd substitution considering the movement needed up front to apply pressure, but he was a nuisance and also won important defensive headers.


Pedro Obiang
(Replaced Noble) Did his job, making tackles and putting on pressure.


Arthur Masuaku
(Replaced Anderson) No time to do anything wrong.


Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Did not play.


Pablo Zabaleta
Did not play.


Grady Diangana
Did not play.


Lucas Perez
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Michail Antonio, Javier Hernandez.

Goals: Michail Antonio 28                  .

Booked: Javier Hernandez 0          .

Sent off: None.

Liverpool: Alisson, Milner, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Keita, Mane, Roberto Firmino (Origi 74), Lallana (Shaqiri 69), Salah.

Subs not used: Mignolet, Jones, Camacho, Moreno, Sturridge.

Goals: Mane (22).

Booked: Matip.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Kevin Friend.

Attendance: 59,903.

Man of the Match: Ryan Fredericks.