WEST HAM UNITED 3-1 LIVERPOOL
Liverpool played, what can perhaps be considered, one of their worst opening 10 minutes in recent years at Upton Park yesterday. West Ham fully capitalized on this bad start by the Reds and in the end it was a comfortable 3-1 victory at home. Liverpool looked nothing like last year’s Premier League runner ups and made silly errors in the defense to allow the Hammers a memorable victory.
Before the game started, few would have predicted that the Reds would be routed in such a bad manner. A draw would have been considered the most optimistic of predictions. Liverpool were back on the field, fresh from a lucky and memorable 2-1 Champions League game victory against Ludogorets at Anfield. Meanwhile, West Ham hadn’t won a single game in their homeground since the season started. So Liverpool were definitely the favorites.
However, the favorite tag was threatened by West Ham, in only the 2nd minute of the game. Liverpool’s defense hadn’t even organized properly when West Ham won a freekick. Liverpool have looked fairly weak on set pieces lately and this time the blow was inflicted by former Liverpool midfielder Stuart Downing, who launched his kick in the D-box to land on James Tomkins’ head and then on Winston Reid’s left thigh to put it beyond Mignolet touching Dejan Lovren. If the defense were organized, the goal could certainly have been avoided.
But even more misery was to pile on the seventh minute on Liverpool when Mark Noble’s passed to Diafra Sakho, who amazingly chipped the ball beyond Mignolet for West Ham’s second goal. Although it looked like Sakho had intended to attempt a cross, the ball wonderfully found the back of the net to the delight of local fans and the dismay of travelling Red supporters.
West Ham continued to pile the pressure on Liverpool and soon manager Brendon Rodger realized that the formation wasn’t working. In the 22nd minute, he decided to send Xavier Manquillo (who looked like he had sustained some injury) to the bench and bring Mommadou Sakho as his replacement. He ordered a tactical change in the formation, which showed its result, 4 minutes later, when Raheem Sterling scored for Liverpool from a rebound by Mario Balloteli. With the goal, the current Liverpool squad also touched a new milestone, becoming the first red team ever to score goals in 17 away games for the first time.
Super Mario was perhaps the best player in the squad in the game, although he didn’t manage to find the back of the net. The Italian kept on threatening the opposition with glimpses of some great skills. But Liverpool really looked like they badly missed Sturridge. Fabio Borini, failed to capitalize on a lot of chances, while Rickie Lambert too didn’t get any meaningful chances, after he came in for Borini in the 75th minute.
Liverpool kept on attacking in the second half, dominating the possession too. Yet, they did expose the defense to possible counterattacks. 2 times in the half, West Ham couldn’t capitalize on counterattacks. But in the 87th minute when the Reds were pushing for an equalizer, West Ham dealt an irreparable blow when Morgan Amalfitanos scored the third goal for West Ham and sealing victory for the home side.
West Ham were the more reckless side in the game as well, because of which 4 of their players, including Adrian, Jenkinson, Reid and Kouyate were cautioned, while an angry display by Ballotelli also earned him a yellow card.
Injury certainly seems to have taken its toll on the squad. We clearly missed Sturridge on the attack, and with the likes of Flanagan and Johnson out for a few weeks, the Reds of late are showing some inexperienced defensive vulnerabilities too.
However, it’s only the fifth game of the season and Liverpool certainly aren’t that far just yet. We saw what Rodgers made the team last year and once the team sets it, we can optimistically hope that we will move further up the table.