Liverpool 2 West Ham United 1

Saturday, 26th August 2006
by Gordon Thrower

I was 2 the last time we won up there you know. In the ensuing 43 years we’ve had it all. Often we’ve come away with nothing and deserved it. This wasn’t like that. It was a good, if exhausting day out which, for me, started with the lovely girlfriend having to run me up to Redbridge tube at 4.30am. Thanks Murdoch. A fairly uneventful run up the motorway was made ever so interesting by Romford’s pointing out of the different makes of coach we passed on the M1. I really must write the details down one day.

A diversion via St Helens to drop some stuff off for Romford took a bit longer than anticipated due to Sicknote's phone directions taking us all around what's left of the houses but we were still on the outskirts of Liverpool by 9.00am in time to park up at Goodison Park in the space next to the one marked D Ferguson (we weren't brave enough to park in the space itself.) Querying the ?6 car-parking charge levied by a bloke who, suspiciously, seemed well-off enough to own a Jaguar, we were told that we'd have been charged ?10 had we been Liverpool supporters.

Now regular readers will know that I like to look at the architecture of a city as I pass through on these away trips. I know that Gent and Romford hang on my every word as I point out interesting features and that their pretend yawns and comments of "oh no not the architecture again" are merely just an amusing in-joke that forms part of our away day ritual. We also all know how sensitive the population of Liverpool can be if you suggest that their city is anything other than a paradise populated by culturally aware sophisticates who make a valuable net contribution to the nation's economy. So I can only presume that the acres upon acres of burnt-out and boarded up buildings that we drove past actually lie over the boundary in some other metropolitan authority's territory. Beirut perhaps.

We spent a pleasant few hours in Arkles - where Romford spent half an hour moaning about the late appearance of Taff only to discover that he'd been sat three feet away the other side of a pillar all along. Then it was off to the ground. The Kop is 100 years old this year so they all held up a mosaic thing helpfully informing the world that the Kop was 100 years old. Team news was that we'd decided to abandon the 5-3-2 experiment of midweek and revert to a more natural 4-4-2 of Carroll, Paintsil, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Benayoun, Bowyer, Harewood and Zamora.

Early exchanges were fairly even. Gerrard pulled a shot wide before we survived a penalty scare. Paintsil had a chunk of Crouch's shirt. However, given that the initial contact was Crouch's arm pushing down on Paintsil's shoulder, a penalty would have been harsh in the extreme. Over the years Liverpool have won entire championships based on dodgy refereeing in front of the Kop so it made a pleasant change to get the rub of the green on this one. Ref Wiley - a replacement for the disgraced Gallagher who was himself a replacement for the not-quite-as-disgraced-but-still-somewhat-out-of-favour Marriner - saw it as six of one and play was waved on.
We then won a free kick on the right which Yossi managed to mess up - though amends were made when he sprinted half the length of the pitch to win the ball back with a fine tackle. It was a unique tackle in that it was possibly the only tackle won off all afternoon for which Bellamy didn't moan at the ref.

Aurelia then went on the overlap down the left. Ferdinand failed to deal with the cross particularly well the ball falling to play-acting cheat Luis-Garcia who screwed his shot wide. Crouch then went over under minimal contact from Reo-Coker, the clumsiness of the tumble being convincing enough to convince the ref that a foul had been committed. Aurelio's free-kick was superb but Konch had cleverly retreated back to come up with a saving header - and how often has he done that?

We then took the lead. Excellent footwork from NRC gained himself space and he played the ball out to Zamora who looked up and drove the ball in to the near post where Reina had left a gap large enough to drive a bus through. Reina could only get a hand to the effort and help it in. Bobby's expression suggested that it had been a cross gone wrong and it's hard to believe that later interviews in which he claimed to have had a look and spotted the gap were anything more than a mischievous wind-up on Bobby's part, though if he did mean it I doff my cap to him for a special goal.

We could and should have doubled the lead a few minutes later. Yossi's clever lay off behind the defence found Marlon who pulled his shot wide when he really might have been better off going for the other side. It was the finish of someone lacking a bit of confidence I'm afraid and we were left to consider another "what might have been".

We shot ourselves in the foot really. We started to defend deeper and deeper inviting the home side on to us. A cross from the right found Garcia who stayed on his feet for once only to see his shot go straight into Carroll for a comfortable save. A similar effort from a central position from Alonso met with similar result, though, tellingly, he had been given a fair bit of time and space to get the shot in. It was a lesson that was not learned.

Further good work from NRC in the middle saw the ball fed out to Harewood in similar territory to that from which the goal had come. Bobby made a near post run Marlon over hit the ball to the far post. Maybe Marlon should have shot. Marlon then had the ball in the net when Aurelia, realising he'd messed up big time, went down as members of his side are wont to do under the slightest of pressure. Marlon put the ball away only to discover that the linesman had fallen for it and flagged for the non-existent challenge and the goal was chalked off.

Within a few minutes we were 2-1 down. Marlon failed to get across to close down Agger who let fly from about 25 yards for a goal that flew into the top corner. Aggers' display up to that point suggested that if he tries that again another hundred times he'll end up playing it straight up in the air each time so it was particularly rotten luck for him to catch one just right. However there had been warnings before that we shouldn't back away but back away we did and we paid the penalty.

Gerrard then came in on Bowyer with a reckless challenge that would have earned a yellow anywhere else before we were 2-1 down. Bowyer inexplicably lost Garcia who fed the ball through to Crouch who had his mind made up for him by Carroll committing himself a bit too early. Anton ended up with a nasty collision with the goalpost for his trouble.

The general feeling was that if we were to get anything from the match we'd need to take the game to Liverpool a bit more - we were quite capable of causing them problems if we had the belief to go forward and I for one prefer to see us going down fighting rather than sitting back and meekly letting the opposition come on to us.

An early Gerrard shot that was comfortably wide started the second period. Gerrard then played a ball over the top. Paintsil saw it out despite a push from Bellamy who then had the nerve to appeal for a foul. Bellamy's a useful player but you always get the impression that he could be so much better if he spent more time and energy actually playing the game rather than working on the theory that "if I moan enough at the officials they'll give me a decision I don't deserve eventually".

Bellamy's whingeing was to become a recurring theme throughout the afternoon as every single pass he put astray, every single ball he lost and every single time he was caught offside he moaned and I'm sure we're going to see less tolerant officials carding him over the course of the season.

Crouch went off for Kuyt whose name I am informed by the lovely girlfriend (who speaks Dutch) should be pronounced just about any way other than the way selected by the Anfield announcer. Incidentally doesn't that announcer sound more depressed as each year passes? He speaks with the air of one who missed out on the chance to buy shares in the company who boards up broken windows in Liverpool and has been regretting it ever since.

It was a bright start for the Dutchman whose first touch was to tee up a shot that went wide at the far post - though once more we made the basic error of backing off. As we pushed forward we started to leave the odd gap and Ferdinand's back pass under pressure from Bellamy did Carroll few favours though between them they cleared it eventually. Bellamy then had the ball in the back of the net but was rightly called offside - not that that meant much to the Welsh whinger of course.

We weren't unbowed and spent long periods in opposition territory. Only the final ball was lacking though some good skill from Yossi required some agricultural defending to prevent a goal. A free-kick from the right then found Paintsil on the edge of the box and the acrobatic mid-air scissors kick was impressive in all but one respect - that being that the ball ended up in row Z, waking up a few people in an otherwise comatose Kop.

Aurelio then got a caution for a foul on Harewood which, given the leniency previously afforded to Gerrard, seemed a bit harsh to me. The free-kick that resulted came to nothing. Bowyer then got pulled up for a tackle that, whilst winning the ball, probably showed a stud too many for ref Wiley's liking so Aurelio can feel doubly hard done by.

We should have equalised. Good interplay between Benayoun and Mullins saw the ball played out to Paintsil whose cross found Bowyer totally unmarked at the far post only for his shot to screw wide off the base of the post. Bowyer probably had time and space to take a touch.

Subs time and Harewood was replaced by Cole. Harewood had come in for some stick from the away support though some of it frankly beggared belief. One bloke behind me criticised Harewood for Zamora's lack of control on one occasion on the grounds that "it should have been Harewood standing there not Bobby"! However it was fair to say that Marlon had not been at his best. The bloke I sit next to at away matches summed it up thus: "I like Marlon but even I'd sub him today". Mears came on for a seemingly Knackered Konchesky and young Edward replaced NRC.

Yossi won a free kick 30 yards out. Teddy's chip to the back fooled everyone. Cole played it back in towards Mullins who, had he been a Liverpool player might have dived after the nudge from Reina but instead the loose ball went back to Cole whose shot was juggled about by Reina for a bit before resting in his hands.

It was now cracking end to end stuff as Kuyt's effort cutting in from the left was blocked by Gabbidon for a corner which came to naught. An interesting - if inconsequential - refereeing error then took place. Well actually a double error if truth be told. Wiley harshly adjudged Yossi to have handled. Kuyt then took the free kick and passed - to himself! The correct decision would have been to award an indirect free-kick to us for Kuyt's infringement but Wiley allowed the free-kick to be retaken. Nothing came of it and I don't suppose that Wiley will be too worried about joining the ever increasing list of referees on suspension for making errors but it does go to show how they can make a hash of even the most basic stuff from time to time.

Ferdinand incurred the wrath of Gonzalez for not getting out of the way when having his shirt pulled - Gonzalez trying to look hard by pathetically bumping into Anton. Anton just looked bored. As if a mosquito had been flicked away, though the whining noise would have had to have been Bellamy.

A late ball into the box from Bellamy saw Kuyt had wasted no time in picking up Anfield habits by falling over in the box though nobody was convinced and that was it. As I mentioned before I was 2 the last time we won up there. I mentioned it a few times to various people in the pub as well. It's an irritating stat, partly because it's far too long to have not won at Anfield, but mainly because, no matter how many times it came up in conversation not one bugger piped up with a "no surely not you don't look old enough"!

A quick word of sympathy to the home support. We all know that they like a minute's silence in that part of the world. I can therefore only conclude that somebody really important or popular must have recently passed away for them to keep quiet for a whole ninety minutes and that the applause given to the crowd by the players was recognition of their efforts in not disturbing the peace. Much is made in the press of how the Kop act like a "twelfth man" for Liverpool (though lord knows over the years enough referees have tried for the role). If that's the case the Kop ought to be facing a spell of training with the youth side - I mean if you're not going to get behind your side on your 100th birthday celebration day when are you going to do it.

As for us I was encouraged - we played better today than we had on Tuesday night and, but for a spot of better finishing we'd have got something. An encouraging start to the season. Time for an international break. See you in a couple of weeks!

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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Good solid performance - came out a little too quick for Crouch's goal though and made it easier for the striker.

John Paintsil
Maybe lucky that the ref saw Crouch's arm all over him first before the penalty incident. An enthusiastic 90 from the Ghanain who can't spell his own name.

Paul Konchesky
Excellent off the line clearance in the first period though he looked knackered when subbed at the end. A knock perhaps?

Anton Ferdinand
A couple of touches aside he had a good game. Wasn't put out by anything thrown at him.

Danny Gabbidon
Best run out of the season so far as the match fitness returns. Not back to his best by any means but encouraging signs that he's getting there.

Hayden Mullins
Did hid protective role as usual in his normal unassuming style - though I'd have loved him to have launched Garcia into row Z if only to teach the cheat just what it feels like when contact is made!

Nigel Reo-Coker
Some good box to box stuff but all too often he was let down by his distribution.

Lee Bowyer
Solid enough game without dominating. Really should have scored - in fact he probably ought to have nearly as many as Bobby this season.

Yossi Benayoun
Lots of flair matched by no little endeavour. Worried Liverpool.

Bobby Zamora
He can't go wrong at the moment. Taking advantage of the extended run he's getting due to Deano's absence, though claiming he meant that goal is a bit cheeky.

Marlon Harewood
Not happening for him at the moment. However, this time last season we went into the break with Marlon in similar form. A hat-trick against Villa ensued. Cheer up Marlon - guess who our next match is against...!


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Harewood, 73) Didn't really get into the game when replacing Harewood.

Tyrone Mears
(Replaced Konchesky, 81) Did ok on the wrong side when replacing Konch.

Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Zamora, 83) A clever free kick caused consternation though he didn't really have time to influence things.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

James Collins
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Roy Carroll, John Paintsil, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Yossi Benayoun, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 12                  .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Liverpool: Reina, Agger, Aurelio, Finnan, Hyypia, Alonso, Gerrard, Garcia, Pennant, Bellamy, Crouch.

Subs not used: Dudek, Kromkamp.

Goals: Agger (42), Crouch (45).

Booked: Aurelio (64).

Sent off: None.

Referee: A.Wiley.

Attendance: 43,965.

Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.