Slaven Bilic, whose first domestic taste of managing West Ham ended in success at Arsenal, recorded an even more impressive feat with his new employers, overseeing his club’s first victory at Anfield in 52 years against a Liverpool team who had not conceded a goal in their opening three matches.
True, life in home fixtures has been less rewarding for the new West Ham manager but, after first-half goals from Manuel Lanzini and Mark Noble and an injury-time effort from Diafra Sakho had the few home supporters remaining in the stadium booing off their team at the end, Bilic has already guaranteed himself a place in Hammers folklore.
September 1963 was the last time the London club had tasted victory in this fixture. No West Ham player had even scored at Anfield since 2006, but Bilic was clearly unswayed by the mounting weight of statistics against them and sent out a superbly organised team that hit Liverpool often, and effectively, on the counter-attack.
“It is three points but it is one of those games that for the club, for the supporters especially, it is more than three points,” said Bilic. “It is the same story as Arsenal – 52 years without winning here.
“Especially at this kind of stadium – and I think we did it with style, we didn’t nick it – it was a great performance and then, of course, it is more than three points. I am very proud of the players, the whole club. It is great for everyone and one of those games for the history books.”
It helped West Ham’s cause that Brendan Rodgers’ defence chose to undo much of their good defensive work from the first three games, and the dismissal of Liverpool’s most creative player, Philippe Coutinho, also assisted them, although Noble was also sent off 11 minutes from time.
But this was a thoroughly deserved victory from a West Ham team which took a stranglehold on the game after three minutes and never looked likely to let it go.
Liverpool central defenders Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren shared responsibility for the opening two goals. The former’s defensive clearing header was inaccurate and not particularly powerful after three minutes, the centre-half clearing Dimitri Payet’s cross directly to Aaron Cresswell, who intelligently picked out Lanzini for a routine finish from the edge of the six-yard area.
Worse was to follow, on 29 minutes, after Lovren attempted to shepherd the ball out of play near the corner flag but simply turned it over to Lanzini, who worked his way down the by-line and crossed for Noble to score after an attempted block by Nathaniel Clyne.
In between, Roberto Firmino had offered a brief response, neatly making himself room outside the area to fire in a 20-yard shot which struck the Hammers woodwork. But it was a rare moment of concern for the visitors and Coutinho’s caution just before the interval for dissent towards referee Kevin Friend would prove even more costly for Rodgers’ men.
Six minutes after the restart, Friend judged, harshly it appeared, that the same Liverpool man was the guilty party in a collision with Payet, forcing him to reach for a second yellow and dismiss him.
There were glimpses of goal for the home side but not much more and the visitors constantly threatened on the counter-attack, even after Noble was judged to have shown his studs in a challenge on substitute Danny Ings after 79 minutes and was shown a red card to go with a first-half yellow.
West Ham’s third goal duly came deep in injury time when a pass from Cheikhou Kouyaté deflected off Lovren into the path of Sakho, who shrugged off challenges from Skrtel and Alberto Moreno to shoot in from 16 yards. Rodgers said: “Four of seven teams lost at home in the league today and up until today I think there have been six wins out of 30, so it’s going to be a really difficult league to get your home wins.
“But our concentration is on winning here at home, we love playing here and the support has been brilliant here. The first three games we gave them hope again but today we disappointed. But we have seven points out of 12, the players are going away on international duty but they will come back and focus on putting in a better performance away from home.”Reuse content