Opposition no longer fear Anfield visit

Liverpool 0 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Online
While they could take some consolation from the fact that none of the Premiership's top eight won on Saturday, Liverpool had good reason to feel concerned after failing once again to beat supposedly inferior opposition at Anfield.

Not only could the Premiership leaders feel slightly lucky to have taken even a point but Liverpool also saw their injury problems grow.

Mark Wright was unwell and unable to play and by half-time his defensive colleagues Phil Babb and Neil Ruddock had joined him on the sidelines with calf and hamstring injuries respectively. To add to Liverpool's worries, John Barnes was substituted in the second half after suffering a recurrence of the hamstring problem that kept him out of the midweek Coca-Cola Cup game at Middlesbrough.

Barnes, Robbie Fowler and Patrik Berger hit the post in the first half, but it was West Ham who took control. Tim Breacker also hit the woodwork in the first half and after the interval they had much the better of things.

The impressive Steve Jones was particularly threatening. Jones is in his second spell with West Ham, having been signed from Billericay for pounds 18,000 as a youngster, sold to Bournemouth and bought back 18 months later. "He is an honest player," Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, said. "He's got pace, he is willing and he runs for ever."

Liverpool left Stan Collymore on the bench, but although he was given a hero's welcome when he came on for Babb after 36 minutes he struggled to make any impact on the match. After the interval Barnes saw a header go narrowly over the bar and there was an optimistic penalty appeal when Steve McManaman's cross hit Slaven Bilic's arm, but in truth the West Ham goalkeeper Ludo Miklosko was a virtual spectator for much of the time.

At the other end David James did well to tip Marc Rieper's header over the bar and the Liverpool keeper also had to be alert 13 minutes from time as he dived to his left to tip wide a shot by Jones.

West Ham have won only once in 12 games, but with their own injury problems easing Redknapp could draw encouragement from this performance. He said: "Liverpool started brightly and bombarded us in the first 10 or 15 minutes, but the longer the game went on we looked likely to catch them with Jones' pace and I thought we might just nick it."

Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, said the championship race was wide open but wondered who might take the opportunity that was there. "It is there for someone to take by the scruff of the neck but you have your doubts over who is capable of doing it. It might go on like that until the end of the season."

Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Ruddock (Carragher, 46), Matteo, Babb (Collymore, 36); McAteer, McManaman, Thomas, Barnes (Kennedy, 78), Bjornebye; Berger, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), R Jones.

West Ham United (4-4-1-1): Miklosko; Breacker, Rieper, Bilic, Dicks; Williamson (Potts, h-t), Bishop, Moncur, Hughes; Porfirio (Newell, 67); Jones (Lazaridis, 86). Substitutes not used: Sealey (gk), Lampard.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Bookings: West Ham: Moncur, Porfirio, Newell.

Man of the match: Jones.

Attendance: 40,102.

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