By Jonathan Carroll
Sunday saw the reds travel to London to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Ham. In true big Sam fashion, Brendan Rodgers will have prepared his team to face a physical onslaught with a good helping of long balls into their eighteen yard box. West Ham who are now relatively safe from relegation had nothing to lose. Liverpool on the other hand were looking to hold their nerve in a true test of character in the title race.
Rodgers opted to start both Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho. Something that hasn’t happened very often as the manager has looked to use either one coming of the bench. Mamadou Sakho was also called upon to replace the injured Daniel Agger. The game saw Liverpool dominate possession. Luis Suarez went closest in the first half with an audacious chip from the left side of the West Ham box. The ball floated over Adrian and glanced the top of the crossbar and bounced out.
Steven Gerrard later sprayed a beautiful diagonal ball to Suarez who was one on one with Liam Tomkins. As the striker looked to clip the ball inside the defender, Tomkins clearly handled as he realized he was beaten. Clear penalty. Cue fanatic protests from West Ham. Not sure what The complaint was, but it couldn’t have been more clear cut. Referee Anthony Taylor got this decision spot on. Others that day would leave a lot to be desired. Steven Gerrard cooly slotted home the resulting spot kick to put the reds ahead.
At the end of the first half, a West Ham corner was prodded home by Guy Demel after Andy Carroll tried his best to impersonate a midfielder in Gaelic football. Simon Mignolet dropped the ball after being fouled by Carroll and Taylor allowed the goal to stand. Even after consulting his linesman, Taylor didn’t change his mind. One has to wonder what the point is of having linesmen if they are not to be used by the main match official?
It was vital Liverpool didn’t lose composure and Rodgers was calmest of all as he walked off at half-time, quietly having a word with the referee. Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson were particularly annoyed at the goal being given. Coutinho was replaced by Lucas Leiva at half time as Liverpool looked to press on and find a winner. Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez were looking more and more potent as time went by. Sturridge had a decent chance go just over before Leiva played in Jon Flanagan who was upended by Adrian. It wasn’t a clear cut penalty on first viewing as the keeper dragged the played back after glancing the ball. Something that only slow motion replays showed clearly.
Gerrard converted again and the traveling kop was sent into dreamland again. The remainder of the game saw Liverpool hold the ball well. Suarez hit the bar once more before the excellent Raheem Sterling had a stinging shot saved. Sakho done well all afternoon against Andy Carroll and then later on Carlton Cole. Liverpool defended set pieces better and thwarted West Ham in an efficient manner.
Liverpool overcame a tough test of character. Away in London, against a dogged team. Next Sunday sees Liverpool host Manchester City at Anfield. A huge game that has massive title ramifications. Win and Liverpool are in pole position. Lose and………..well lets just cross that bridge if we come to it. A draw could potentially still work in Liverpool’s favor as they still face Chelsea at Anfield and City must travel to a rampant Everton before the end of the season. One thing is for sure, Rodgers and his Liverpool side can beat anyone at Anfield. Bring on Sunday!
West Ham United
13 Adrián (Booked)
08 Armero (Booked)
14 Taylor (Jarvis – 78′ )
05 Tomkins (Booked)
21 Diamé (Cole – 85′ )
04 Nolan (Nocerino – 68′ Booked )
10 Coutinho (Lucas – 45′ )
15 Sturridge (Kolo Touré – 85′ )
04 Kolo Touré
09 Iago Aspas
Referee: Anthony Taylor