Liverpool 1-0 West Ham United
Wednesday, 19th October 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
It was a night of what-ifs for West Ham United after a fine performance left still saw the side lose 1-0 away at Anfield.After an even first half, West Ham were comfortably the better side in the second 45, but a first-half Nunez header was enough to settle the game.
David Moyes confirmed before the game that Lucas Paqueta had a "serious" injury (although the player himself has supposedly suggested he will only miss two weeks), and the Brazilian's composure was one of the big misses as The Hammers often found themselves in encouraging positions, but the passing once around the Liverpool penalty area was poor.
Zouma, Fornals and Downes came in for Coufal, Emerson and Paqueta, and West Ham lined up in what looked a 4-3-3 that often reverted to a 4-5-1 out of possession. The most intrigue and surprise came from Downes being given his first Premier League start, but the young midfielder looked at home at this level and will surely push for more starts after such a positive performance.
The kind of panic that set in when the attacking group got possession close to the Liverpool goal was on show almost immediately after the hosts tried to play out from goal and got it all wrong. It didn't matter, the pass was quickly wasted in a promising position, and this lack of coolness never seemed to disappear.
Liverpool started expensive summer signing Darwin Nunez, the striker Moyes had apparently chased in January, and those who fear the Narrative will have been worried. With no Liverpool goal yet at Anfield for the Uruguayan, you could feel what was coming.
The striker looked sharp, another unit of a player who moves with a speed that defies his frame, and he looked up for the challenge here. He forced a good save from Fabianski inside 15 minutes, chasing a long ball over the top and hitting the ball on the bounce and on the run, but Fabianski was in position and tipped over well.
The Hammers were very much holding their own, but that lack of composure really snuffed out their own threat. And soon they were punished.
Of course, it was Nunez who scored, Tsimikas given far too much space and time to deliver a cross from the left wing, with Johnson slow to press and react to the danger. Zouma was the spare man, but the ball sailed just over his head and into the path of Nunez, who beat Kehrer in the air and guided a header across the face of goal and into the far corner to give Liverpool a lead they didn't particularly deserve.
He should have extended it a minute later, Johnson turning back to his own goal when under pressure and turning right into Nunez, who took the ball on but smashed too close to Fabianski, who again saved well.
For about 15 minutes after the goal, Liverpool suffocated West Ham, who had struggled to look convincing under any pressure in their own half. Soucek faltered, but Rice and Downes continued to have good games, even amidst the struggles in this period.
Liverpool had chances in this spell, Salah shooting wide when positioned well in the area, but the real threat was still the Uruguayan striker.
He seemed to be there every time a West Ham player made a sloppy error in and around the area. It was him who was set up brilliantly by Kehrer after the defender headed weakly out from a long ball into the box. It fell to Nunez, who smashed it at goal and was unlucky to see the ball cannon off the post.
It fell right back to him, diverted his way by another weak touch from a West Ham defender, but his snapshot effort sailed wide.
With all the pressure flying at the West Ham goal, a little attack seemed needed just to give the defence a breather. But as the ball was flicked into the box, Bowen took it on the run against his chest, only for Joe Gomez to try and make a jumping challenge from behind.
It sent Bowen flying to the ground, inside the box, but the referee waved it away. A minute or two later, VAR sent him to the screen to check his decision, which he surely agreed was some abysmal refereeing as he reversed his original decision to give the penalty.
Amidst the arguments, Virgil Van Dijk reminded us that form is temporary, but a lack of class is permanent, scuffing the penalty spot with his studs. It didn't seem to make any difference to the kick, but let a man's actions speak to his character.
Unfortunately, the penalty was poor, Bowen sending it at goal at a comfortable height, not entirely into the corner and not struck particularly hard, so once Alisson guessed right, it was an easy save.
There were only minutes left to the interval, but West Ham were buoyed by their chance, rather than deflated by the miss. After a slither of a chance for Downes saw his shot blocked for a corner, West Ham looked to finish the half on the high, with only time left for the kick.
The delivery was brilliant, as many of Cresswell's were during the game, and Kehrer burst through the pack at the near post to get to it. He seemed to head it almost directly down, so that is bounced harmlessly wide when the defender really should have scored. His whole performance certainly reminded many that his play in the centre of defence does not quite look ready for Premier League football.
The Hammers started the second half as they ended the first, threatening and looking comfortable in the game. The passing at the crucial moments continued to let them down, though, and they game drifted for a quite enjoyable 15 minutes as West Ham struggled to turn possession into real threat.
It wasn't until Benrahma came on for the underwhelming Fornals that some life was breathed into the match.
Liverpool had made changes of their own, a triple substitution Klopp's reply to how they had let the second half drift by, and they soon felt they should have scored.
It was another wobbly moment for Kehrer, who was starting to become more of an issue as the game went on, pushing forward into midfield with the ball but easily dispossessed as he stepped over the half way line.
Henderson sprinted down the right flank to make an option for the pass, and when he received it, he cut it back to Firmino about 10 yards from goal. Luckily for West Ham, a man was there to block his shot.
Still, West Ham plugged away, and they could have been back in the game from an unlikely source.
A Rice cross was overhit and sailed high into the air, but Liverpool's defence stood still and waited for it to drop. Where it did land was right onto the foot of Benrahma, but the Algerian, eight yards from goal, could only control the volley enough to get it on target, but right at Alisson. It was definitely a chance, but the height the ball dropped from made it incredibly difficult.
Moyes reacted, sending Antonio on for Downes and letting us all see how the pair can operate together. Antonio came on and added another dimension to West Ham, whilst Scamacca continued on what had been a very poor performance. His movement was poor, his effort levels looked too low, and his body language was that of a man who felt he was above being left so isolated.
While West Ham pushed, they left space for Liverpool to attack into, and the hosts should have wrapped things up a couple of times in a quick spell. First it was a corner that dropped down into the six-yard box and looked destined to be poked in by Firmino. Instead it was smothered by Fabianski, the goalkeeper flying off his line to block the effort and keep his side in the game. It was a fabulous performance from the Pole.
Moments later, it was Zouma coming close. Another driving overlap from Henderson down the right saw the midfielder given the ball and supplying a nearly perfect cross between goalkeeper and defence, in that long-known ?EUR~corridor of uncertainty.'
Zouma flicked out a leg to stop the ball travelling on, somehow bouncing it off the deck and up into the air. Everyone watched it loop high and then down, onto the top of the crossbar and out for a corner.
It was from that corner that West Ham countered, Antonio moving into acres of space in the middle of the park and turning to drive at goal. He carried to the edge of the area and then slid it right to Scamacca, only for the Italian to take it on a few touches, tighten the angle and then smash an awful shot high and wide of goal. In the centre, Antonio screamed for the cutback, and he should have been given it.
What doesn't come across in the tale of this match, driven event-to-event within it, is just how good Declan Rice was. Downes and Cresswell impressed too, but Rice looked a different class to anyone on either side. He seemed to glide past people at will, making talents like Thiago and Fabinho mere bystanders as he surged beyond them. Even with Downes taken off for Antonio and that extra security gone from midfield, the captain controlled it anyway and floated around on his own level. Any doubts anyone has over whether this lad meets the undefined "world class" label will have surely been won over by a majestic display.
All this is added in now to delay the moment that will stick (and sting) in the memory of West Ham fans when looking back on this game.
Benrahma was the catalyst, his appearance from the bench unquestionably a positive one. He beat Alexander-Arnold with ease as he burst into the left side of the Liverpool area and then clipped it inside to Bowen. The winger couldn't shoot with what he was given, but burst into the six-yard box, a little wide of the goal, and squared it back into the middle for Soucek. It looked destined to go in, and his shot was surely going to level things, only for the substitute James Milner to make a late challenge, and a perfect one, too. The deflection on the ball sent it wide and saved his side.
It looked to be the last chance, but the corner in was exceptional. Up rose Scamacca, but rather than putting his woes behind him, he compounded them more by heading wide from the centre of goal and 8 yards out, at most.
It was that kind of day, really. Good, but not good enough. Brave, spirited, and not without class, but without a killer touch or a touch of composure when it was needed.
So a performance that deserved at least a point was rewarded with none. It's a cruel game, but at least one in which West Ham are improving as the weeks go by.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Whilst not quite up to such words like ?EUR~amazing?EUR(TM) or ?EUR~fantastic,?EUR(TM) Fabianski was very good when called upon, and kept his side in it when they did let Liverpool in.
Another performance where his lack of confidence was clear. Poor on the ball, not great without it, this was a real chance for him to make a claim for that right back spot, and he failed the test.
Aaron Cresswell is having a very good season. Never exposed or even that threatened, made some important interventions in defence and his delivery going forward was exceptional.
Hectic, uncontrolled and, frankly, unsuitable at centre back like this. He has been a touch rash since he first joined, but he was just messy today. With no one exactly putting up a challenge at right back, he can move back over there without fuss.
With Kehrer one side of him and Johnson the other, pulling out a solid performance is all the more impressive. Little bit of luck on his side, and he will be furious that he was under the cross for the first goal, but a strong showing.
He?EUR(TM)s comfortably better than every Liverpool midfielder, was easily the best player on the park and is growing into the season as the World Cup comes into focus.
Look, the focus will remain on his work on the ball, which wasn?EUR(TM)t good enough. But his defensive work was very good, sometimes absolutely crucial, and he sat and marshalled the defence when Rice wanted to push forward. And he made us more of a threat when he bombed into the box.
A very promising performance, although his use of the ball could have improved, a 66% accuracy not really good enough, even if he was tasked with some of the more difficult passes as he went on ahead of Rice and Soucek. But slotted in well, not at all overawed and looked ?EUR~Premier League quality.?EUR(TM)
A good performance bar the miss on the penalty, which was poor and reminds us all that we cannot settle on a penalty taker since Noble stopped being a regular.
He wasn?EUR(TM)t quite abysmal like Kehrer and Johnson, but he wasn?EUR(TM)t good. There were still those moments where you could see his eye for a creative pass was better than any of his teammates, but he looked panicked in attacking areas and is just a touch out of form.
It was a 4 before that shot after Antonio had done so well, but that tipped it over the edge. Looked disinterested, and whilst hat solo role can be frustrating when against these ?EUR~bigger?EUR(TM) teams, West Ham actually got into the final third often, but Scamacca?EUR(TM)s movement was beyond poor.
(Replaced Fornals 60) Came out of the traps fast and threatened the Liverpool defence with something different, a bit of trickier and direct running. Did really well to get the ball central for what ended up as Soucek?EUR(TM)s big chance. His cameos often feel better than his starts, but he has earned the right to prove that wrong.
(Replaced Downes 73) Like Benrahma, he came on with the right energy and drive, took no time to adapt and improved the side. He might not like it, but these cameos make him look brilliant.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Thilo Kehrer, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Flynn Downes, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Gianluca Scamacca.
Sent off: None.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Tsimikas (Robertson 81), Carvalho (Jones 57), Henderson, Thiago (Fabinho 57), Salah, Roberto Firmino (Milner 81), Núñez (Elliott 57).
Subs not used: Kelleher, Phillips, Clark, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Goals: Núñez (22).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Man of the Match: Declan Rice.