Collymore sings song for Europe

FOOTBALL: Liverpool 2 West ham United 0 Liverpool bounce back and Middlesbrough leave it late while the battle to avoid relegation closes up dramatically
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Liverpool 2 West ham United 0

The last time West Ham won at Anfield, 33 years ago, "You'll Never Walk Alone" was still a sugary confection on the London stage rather than a hymn to Scouse solidarity. It was the same old song yesterday once Stan Collymore had forced them to face the music.

The pounds 8.5m British record signing scored once, midway through a soporific first half, and created the clinching goal for John Barnes shortly before half-time. Realistically, Collymore's contribution came too late to revive Liverpool's championship hopes, but victory keeps them on course for at least third place in the Premiership and a return to Europe.

It was as well that Collymore was calling the tune, for an under-strength Liverpool looked leg-weary in their fourth game in nine days. West Ham, despite the luxury of not being embroiled in the relegation dog fight, showed few ideas as to how to end a long run of capitulations before the Kop.

They have now lost on 19 of their 26 matches at Liverpool since a young Bobby Moore helped them to both points in September, 1963, and amassed a grand total of two goals in the last 14 visits. Their manager, Harry Redknapp, said afterwards that he had sensed that the time was right to stop the sequence. To his annoyance, the West Ham players evidently did not share his conviction.

"Liverpool got done on Saturday and they had a few people out injured at the back," Redknapp said. "So it was a good time to come here and get a result, but in the first half we just stood back and watched them dominate. I was so disappointed at half-time - it had been like a practice match for them.

"I said `come on chaps, there's a lot of people come up here to watch you play. Can you try a bit harder?' We got stuck into them in the second half, which was a lot better, but it was too late."

West Ham deployed Keith Rowland to man-mark Steve McManaman and left Iain Dowie to forage alone up front until the second half. By then, however, Collymore had already punished their lack of ambition.

The former Nottingham Forest striker's 18th goal of the season was a low drive from 22 yards after he had picked up Jason McAteer's pass and twisted away from Danny Williamson. Ludek Miklosko got a hand to the ball but was unable to keep it out.

In the 38th minute, Collymore skipped around Marc Rieper by the dead- ball line. Barnes, meeting the ensuing cross with a near post flick that hit the net by the far upright, claimed his first goal since August.

After the interval, Dowie brought David James into belated action with a succession of long-range efforts. Julian Dicks, surprisingly restrained on his old stamping ground, also tested the goalkeeper's agility.

Even so Liverpool had further chances to embellish their success, Robbie Fowler once directing over the bar a header that was as powerful as most people's shots. Later still, McManaman summoned the energy to push the ball past Dicks, outrun the full-back and hurdle the subsequent sliding tackle, a cameo thrillingly out of step with the rest of the afternoon.

"It wasn't the liveliest of fixtures," Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, admitted. "But we showed great spirit after getting kicked in the teeth at Coventry."

Talking of which, how depressing to hear "There's only one John Salako" rising from a West Ham following whose non-stop singing had otherwise done much to enliven matters.

Liverpool (3-4-1-2): James; Thomas, Scales, Matteo; McAteer, Redknapp, Barnes, Bjornebye; McManaman; Collymore, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Rush, Kennedy, Warner (gk).

West Ham United (4-5-1): Miklosko; Breacker, Rieper, Bilic, Dicks; Hughes (Dani, 73), Rowland, Bishop, Williamson, Slater; Dowie. Substitutes not used: Potts, Martin.

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill, Surrey).