Johnson helps Reds shrug off the loss of Gerrard

Liverpool 3 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Football

Avram Grant once came to Merseyside to study Bob Paisley's methods when Liverpool were dominating English football in the 1970s. If that visit provided illumination, this trip will have only brought dark thoughts as Liverpool's comprehensive victory underlined the size of the task he faces to lift West Ham United off the bottom of the table.

And that is if the Israeli is given the chance. Despite vice-chairman Karren Brady's words of support for Grant in midweek, West Ham have won only once in the Premier League this season and this defeat, which ended a run of three draws, had the away fans chanting: "You're getting sacked in the morning." Liverpool were out of sight by the interval, the hosts' bright display in the first half having been rewarded by goals from Glen Johnson, Dirk Kuyt, from the penalty spot, and Maxi Rodriguez.

"We were very poor first half," admitted Grant, though he was defiant about his ability to revive the Londoners' fortunes. "The minute I think I cannot do my job I will not be here. But I am sure I can do a good job and take the team forward."

While Grant rued the absence of Scott Parker – victim of a chest infection – along with Valon Behrami, Kieron Dyer and Manuel da Costa, for once Liverpool did not miss Steven Gerrard, sidelined by the hamstring injury sustained on England duty, as they bounced back from last weekend's disappointment at Stoke City, climbing to ninth on the back of this third straight home victory.

Liverpool's manager Roy Hodgson said: "We were concerned to some extent we would have to do it without Steven Gerrard and [the suspended] Lucas Leiva but luckily the players selected today did really well."

Johnson set the tone for Liverpool's performance with a surging run into the box in the opening minute that won the game's first corner.

David Ngog, starting alongside Fernando Torres, had a low effort saved by Robert Green soon after and Liverpool's early pressure paid off through Johnson's opening goal.

After Green had tipped over Raul Meireles's strike, the midfielder swung over a corner that Johnson, emerging from a cluster of players, took on his chest before firing low past Green.

Hodgson had been critical last week of Johnson's performances this season but he was full of praise for the defender on his return from injury. "I thought he was full of running, and he scored a very important goal."

Liverpool's second came when Danny Gabbidon handled in the box as Torres sought to burst through. Kuyt, following a tip from Gerrard, beat Green down the middle.

Liverpool's third came from Rodriguez. Although Green foiled Torres with his feet, Paul Konchesky crossed the ball back into the middle where the unmarked Argentinian steered a header inside the far post.

West Ham created only one chance in the second half and that was in injury time when Frédéric Piquionne headed wide from Pablo Barrera's cross. Pepe Reina's only save of the half came when Piquionne's cross almost dipped beneath the crossbar.

Green managed to spare West Ham further embarrassment with two flying stops, first turning a searing Torres strike on to the crossbar, then tipping behind Christian Poulsen's 20-yard drive.

Attendance: 43,024

Referee: Lee Probert

Man of the match: Johnson

Match rating: 7/10

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