West Ham vs Liverpool match report: Reds are caught cold by hot Hammers

West ham 3 Liverpool 1: West Ham tear a leaf out of Liverpool’s book in a storming start with two goals in just seven minutes before midfielder Amalfitano crowns victory

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The Independent Football

A brilliant start and three fine finishes produce one impressively solid win for West Ham United, as Sam Allardyce’s side overturned a few expectations in turning over Liverpool 3-1. The home side blew Brendan Rodgers’s outfit away with two goals in the first seven minutes, and the kind of storming start that was Liverpool’s hallmark last season. They have instead made a poor start to this campaign, now losing three of their first five.

Allardyce out-thought Rodgers, and  the Anfield boss was left with a fair amount to ponder. His team still can’t find their stride or a truly comfortable and convincing formation.

 The most remarkable thing about the opening, beyond the stunning first seven minutes, was that West Ham United roared at the opposition defence in a way so reminiscent of Liverpool themselves. Rodgers’s side were completely caught cold. One of the dangers from last season was that, knowing how Liverpool liked to go at teams from kick-off so vigorously, other managers would get their team to sit deep early on frustrate them in the manner Jose Mourinho set out. West Ham didn’t do that. They did what Liverpool usually do, storming into a 2-0 lead.

If that was unfamiliar from the home side, the manner in which they opened the scoring was anything but. West Ham struck from a set-piece, exposing a persistent vulnerability in Rodgers’s side. 

 

After just a minute, Stewart Downing curled a free-kick to the back post, allowing James Tomkins to head back for Winston Reid to score from close range.

Liverpool were rocked, the Boleyn Ground was rocking, and West Ham kept on rolling. With the stadium coming to life, Mark Noble cut through the centre of the pitch before feeding Diafra Sakho on the right. He looked up, saw the suspect Mignolet off his line, and gloriously lifted it over the goalkeeper’s head. Although Enner Valencia was running towards the post, Sakho’s eyes made it clear he was aiming for the shot rather than the cross.

Either way, it didn’t matter. West Ham were 2-0 up after just seven minutes. It could have been 3-0 moments later as Mignolet pushed away a long shot from the effervescent Downing. The No 11 was revelling at the tip of Sam Allardyce’s new diamond midfield, to the extent that it forced Rodgers to completely rip up his game plan.

On 22 minutes, the Liverpool manager hauled Javier Manquillo off for Mamadou Sakho, reverting to three at the back.

Five things we learnt

The switch at least saw Liverpool stabilise and slow the game down for a period, with the only flashpoint coming when Mario Balotelli slid in on Adrian, who didn’t seem to pushed about getting up off the forward. It brought a confrontation between the two players, but also harsh wards from Noble for his goalkeeper.

Balotelli did something more productive on 26 minutes, as his shot cannoned back off a defender to Raheem Sterling, who then powered a beautiful effort past Adrian to make it 2-1.

The expectation might have been that West Ham would be pegged back, but Allardyce’s side kept coming, and had still had the better of the game. Liverpool seemed to suffer another set-back when Dejan Lovren went down with what seemed a head injury, but he surprisingly came back on with bandage after a lengthy delay.

The Croatian defender stayed on the pitch after the break, but Lucas Leiva didn’t. The Brazilian was taken off for Adam Lallana, as Rodgers attempted to introduce some badly-missing creativity.

There was some lift in Liverpool’s play as West Ham began to sit back in the way that might have been suspected from the start. The away side suddenly had more of the ball higher up the pitch.

That didn’t completely blunt West Ham, though, as they continued to look dangerous on the break. Enner Valencia was especially revelling in the space, and one of the best players on the pitch.

Rodgers.jpg
Brendan Rodgers looks on unhappily during the 3-1 defeat to West Ham

Sterling was Liverpool’s best source of creativity, but one of their best moves came from Balotelli, as he played a through ball for Fabio Borini. It was just a little too far wide, though, allowing Adrian to collect the Italian’s shot. His next effort was more threatening but came from much less craft, as a mini-goalmouth scramble saw the ball worked out to the left, before Borini curled it over. The forward then ended up falling over Adrian, as the goalkeeper dived to collect a loose ball after a parry.

Liverpool were continuing to produce passages of passing around the West Ham box but, rather than bring a goal, it only brought a response from Allardyce. On 76 minutes, he sacrificed a striker, introducing James Collins for Valencia. Moves like that can backfire as they invite even more pressure but, on this occasion, it only bolstered West Ham’s backline. They continued to win every key challenge around the box. It was often as if Liverpool could do as they wanted until they reached the 18-yard box, when any sense of life to their play was suffocated.

None of Gerrard’s passes came off, all of the runs of Sterling came to nought. Then, a run at the other end secured the three points for West Ham. A Liverpool attack broke down, and substitute Morgan Amalfitano rolled the ball into the net to make it 3-1.

Line-ups:

West Ham (4-4-2): Adrian; Demel (Jenkinson 61), Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Kouyate, Downing, Noble, Song (Amalfitano 69); Sakho, Valencia (Collins 76).

Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet; Manquillo (Sakho 22), Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Lucas (Lallana 45), Gerrard, Henderson; Balotelli, Borini (Lambert 75), Sterling.

Referee: Craig Pawson

Man of the match: Stewart Downing (West Ham)

Match rating: 8/10.

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