It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t convincing and it really doesn’t matter to Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool have had 12 straight wins in all competitions, with a narrow win over West Ham to keep the pressure on Manchester City ahead of tonight’s Manchester derby.
Liverpool’s 600th Premier League win owed as much to West Ham as it did to Sadio Mane’s predatory instincts. The Senegalese international decided the outcome with a sharp first-half finish before Pablo Fornals and Manuel Lanzini missed glorious equalisers. It is now 18 visits to Anfield without a win for David Moyes. His visible anguish as Lanzini skied past with only Alisson to beat was perfectly understandable.
West Ham’s hopes of becoming the first team to score a Premier League double against Klopp’s Liverpool were dashed ahead of kick-off with Declan Rice absent through illness. Moyes placed Lanzini alongside Tomas Soucek and, after his team was instantly overwhelmed by Liverpool’s speed of thought and movement, soon switched to a four-man midfield to stem the tide.
Just 69 seconds had elapsed when Trent Alexander-Arnold released Mohamed Salah with a quick free-kick behind the visitors’ defence, with West Ham penalized for offside and failing to recognize the right-back’s intentions.
Salah had a clean shot on target, Kurt Zouma slipping wide behind him, but Lukasz Fabianski completed the angle and parried the striker’s well-placed shot with his leg. Salah found himself free in West Ham’s penalty area moments later, this time being slowed down by Craig Dawson’s well-timed tackle.
Between Salah’s chances was a hoe slide from Virgil van Dijk, who drifted wide of the target after another free-kick from Alexander-Arnold. Luis Diaz, wonderfully deflecting an Andy Robertson cross, had blocked a volley in goal as Liverpool besieged Fabianski’s goal in a dominant opening.
West Ham struggled to escape. Jarrod Bowen’s work was limited to his defensive third, as was Nikola Vlasic on the left, although Michail Antonio’s power and pace were, as always, a strong outlet.
The centre-forward forced Alisson to keel over when he chipped Pablo Fornals over Ibrahima Konate for the first time. The pair combined again at the end of a fluid break, with Antonio cutting into Liverpool’s inside half before testing Alisson at his near post.
The visitors grew into the game after their shaky opening, denying Liverpool’s three in front and showing more composure in possession, which made Liverpool’s breakthrough all the more galling from Moyes’ point of view.
It unfolded in slow motion. Naby Keïta’s crossfield pass found Alexander-Arnold lurking just outside West Ham’s area. The defender controlled on his chest and fired into the far corner but Mané, sneaking in behind Dawson, intervened to flick the ball past Fabianski. VAR looked at a possible offside for a long time and finally decided that the goalscorer was crossed from Dawson’s upper arm.
Alexander-Arnold lashed a free-kick just wide of Fabianski’s top corner, with the West Ham goalkeeper dead on the spot after Diaz’s blistering run from his own half was illegally stopped by Zouma. Anfield went to great lengths to condemn the cat-kicker. A plane with the inscription “Cats Lives Matter” flew over the stadium before kick-off. When a giant inflatable cat’s head appeared in the grandstand in the second half, the Kop reworked “Attack, Attack, Attack” to “A Cat, A Cat, A Cat.”
Zouma, you suspect, was perhaps more saddened when his strikers missed one of several excellent chances to level. Fornals had an excellent opportunity to equalize when Ben Johnson’s cross found the playmaker on the side and sprinted through a ravine in Liverpool’s centre-back.
He hesitated before chipping the advancing Alisson as he lacked power and Alexander-Arnold was able to tick off the line. His clearance gave Fornals a second bite after a header, which Alisson deflected to Vlasic, who failed to hit Alexander-Arnold on the goal line.
A misplaced header from Van Dijk sent Bowen on Liverpool’s goal after the restart. He failed to get a shot off before Robertson intervened with a crucial challenge. Bowen was then helped moments later with what appeared to be serious ankle problems.
Lanzini missed the visitors’ best chance of a point when Soucek raced unmarked into the Liverpool area from a cross. The Argentine controlled, checked Alexander-Arnold inside, but shot over the goal from five yards. Moyes understandably sank to his hips, head in hands.
Liverpool also had their moments in the second half, with Diaz just missing, but this was a day they simply had to dig in and survive. Klopp’s team delivered.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/liverpool-stutter-but-clinical-mane-strikes-to-keep-pressure-on-41416111.html Liverpool stutter but Mane clinically strikes to keep the pressure on