Camara strike earns Liverpool breathing space

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They are grateful for any mercies at Liverpool these days and the gift of a decisive goal offers Gérard Houllier and his embattled side a little breathing space.

They are grateful for any mercies at Liverpool these days and the gift of a decisive goal offers Gérard Houllier and his embattled side a little breathing space.

There are no good nights to be without your two first-choice strikers, but the absence of Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler made the going all the more onerous for Liverpool.

For 43 minutes they dominated proceedings, only to squander a succession of opportunities. And then Rio Ferdinand, West Ham's much-coveted central defender, dallied in front of his own goal and presented Titi Camara with a chance to put Liverpool ahead. He gracefully did so and eased the anxieties around Anfield.

West Ham lacked half their regular front line, Paolo di Canio being forced out with an ankle injury, yet still offered plenty of imagination. Paulo Wanchope and Trevor Sinclair repeatedly outmanoeuvred Liverpool's defence with regulation give-and-goes, and Joe Cole provided a few glimpses of his precocious talent.

On a night when Manchester United and Arsenal were pursuing Champions' League campaigns Liverpool's current plight must have been all the harder to bear for their followers. They remain a team seeking reincarnation, and without Owen and Fowler inspiration was in short supply.

After their summer odyssey, West Ham appear to be running out of steam, suffering three consecutive away defeats - and they had failed to win in 29 previous league matches here. Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were their scorers when they were last successful on this ground.

A modern hero, Wanchope, all long legs and a step-overs, caused familiar problems but when the first evidence of disquiet coursed through the stands Liverpool had a sight of goal. Jamie Redknapp's shot left Shaka Hislop untroubled.

David Thompson produced a more menacing effort that Hislop was content to push over the bar. Erik Meijer and Camara both found space to volley, before another shot from Thompson's safely found Hislop.

West Ham were penned in until Cole led them out with an impudent piece of skill. Then Kitson and Wanchope set up Sinclair, whose cross-shot had Sander Westerveld scampering across his line.

Liverpool retaliated with enthusiasm rather than conviction, Redknapp's free-kick whistled over, but two minutes before the break Ferdinand failed to deal with Song's cross and Camara punished him.

Song reverted to defensive duties to preserve Liverpool's advantage and Thompson might have increased it midway through the second half, but thrashed his shot into the side netting.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Westerveld; Song, Henchoz, Hyypia, Matteo; Thompson (Heggem, 73), Redknapp, Carragher, Berger; Meijer, Camara (Smicer, 78). Substitutes not used: Murphy, Nielsen (gk), Gerrard.

West Ham United (3-5-2) Hislop; Potts, Ferdinand, Ruddock; Sinclair, Lampard, Lomas, Cole, Keller; Wanchope, Kitson. Substitutes not used: Foé, Moncur, Forrest (gk), Margas, Newton.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

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