Halloween 2020 seen Liverpool host West Ham at Anfield with a scary record of not losing to them in over 50 years on home turf. The hammers suffered a big blow in losing influential striker Michail Antonio who to this point has been in blistering form. Liverpool also suffering from injuries with Thiago and Fabinho big misses for them.
So far this season Liverpool have been handing the impetus to teams by conceding first. This was no exception. Despite a bright start Liverpool allowed a cross from the right. Joe Gomez cleared poorly to edge of the box and with a cushioned chest control Pablo Fornals dispatched past Alisson into the bottom corner. One shot conceded, one goal scored. In fact Liverpool have now conceded 15 this season the worst in the Premier League.
Park the bus
West Ham of course then did what every team does when they visit Anfield. A solid wall of 4 defenders closely guarded by a bank of five. Military like. Defiant. They surrendered the ball and territory but they were comfortable with Liverpool struggling to find passes forward. 5 yard passes were becoming too frequent and you could hear Klopp instructing his players to move it faster and longer. Diagonal balls were the order of the day and Trent Alexander was the likely outlet as he was becoming more influential in possession. A smart move with Trent and Salah played in Henderson on the edge of the box, there first shot of the game and nearly found the net. But they would be made wait until they got their equiliser.
A scooped pass from Jones found Salah inside the box. He lifted the ball after his first touch and was then on the deck a second later. The referee called penalty and then the decision went to VAR. Masuaku was adjudged to have caught him. On reflection he did. The most minimal contact there could be. Enough to send him tumbling down? No. But these days that is all that’s needed with a host of players as guilty of it. Even under the rule of VAR we are not safe from over exposure to this type of decision. Perhaps in Spain this is acceptable and even welcomed but for the Premier League we are still uncomfortable with the decisions. Penalty dispatched by Salah. He will not be losing sleep over it.
Chances all over
Though sticking to their game plan the hammers spurned a few chances of their own with once with Fornals reaping the reward from a good Masuaku cross that nearly scuffled in. Then moments later after a mixup from Gomez and Phillips he slammed a shot off Robertson. This game was not a certainty for either team. Henderson then split the defence with a cross to Robertson who found himself approaching the 6 yard box. He crossed and nearly found Firmino. But these chances were actually having an adverse effect on a West Ham team that abandoned their bus. With Bowen becoming more attacking it left them exposed on the right side.
The bench effect
Klopp unloaded the in form Jota and the forgotten man in Shaquiri. Jones and Firmino departed. Almost immediately it paid off with an attack from Bowen cleared within one pass from Shaqiri to Jota, the Portuguese winger took off at the hammers defence. After braking the line with his pace he found Mane with a cross. He brought out a superb save from Fabianski who parried to his defender who cleared only as far as Jota. He dispatched from a tight angle. Celebrations were cut short however as Mane was adjudged to have fouled the keeper. VAR now did what it was intended and found the foul.
Liverpool were on the front foot and with West Ham now struggling to keep the ball upfield for any length of time it was almost inevitable they would give up another chance. That opportunity came with the move of the match. Henderson fed Shaqiri who then disguised a defence splitting pass to who else but Jota. He met it on the run around the penalty spot and shot into the roof of the net. VAR could not save the visitors this time. There was no time left for them to muster another chance and Liverpool once more found a way to win.
What have we learned
For West Ham this one is simple. They were superb for 40 mins by taking their goal well and by their defencive structure. But they had no outlet. As the game wore on they missed Antonio and his ability to make defences drop off. 90 mins with no rest eventually told and they gave everything they had. It must be said that Haller had a really poor game as the replacement. 40 million spent and no receipt of purchase. They need to find a better solution when missing their talisman.
Liverpool are a mixed bag this season. That’s 2 games they have given up an early goal but managed to claw back 2 wins. This will be encouraging. Phillips did well for them specifically aerially from setpieces. Even with Virgil Van Djik they were conceding goals and this is their biggest problem. For 2 years they were full throttle and had an air of grace about them. But these days teams fancy themselves to score. It’s that hope that makes a difference. Thiago is badly needed for games like this where they have 70% possession. Jota has been a huge plus for them and Klopp now must find a way to start him.