Liverpool breeze past sorry West Ham at Anfield
Stood in the technical area, his hands by his side, without a whisper passing through his lips, Avram Grant looked like a man defeated at Anfield as the vocal West Ham supporters who travelled up from East London made it clear the manager’s time was up.
In the opposing dugout things were much different. Roy Hodgson -who had faced similar chants a week earlier at Stoke -looked relaxed, much like his Liverpool team who easily brushed aside West Ham to move back in to the top half of the table.
Liverpool started the game as they meant to go on, pushing forward and putting pressure on the Hammers back line. Glen Johnson, returning after several league games on the sidelines, proved to be troublesome down the right-wing, playing in a number of dangerous crosses and cutting inside to stretch the West Ham back four.
Raul Meireles dominated in the middle of the park, constantly looking for the killer ball and showing the same level of grit and determination that his teammate Dirk Kuyt, who started on the right, has become famous for during his time on Merseyside.
So naturally when Liverpool scored their first goal, a well-taken shot from Johnson from a Meireles corner, it was clear that it was not going to be the only one the Reds would be picking up over the course of the 90 minutes.
Within 20 minutes of Johnson’s goal Liverpool were three goals to the good, with Kuyt converting from the spot following a handball from Daniel Gabbidon and Maxi Rodriguez firing in a header from close range – almost totally unmarked.
Whilst Liverpool’s performance was a significant improvement from their showing at Stoke this was not a result that came from a sensational display. West Ham failed to close down, particularly in the final third, putting little pressure on the Reds’ forwards, who responded by happily running rings around the Hammers defensive line.
Carlton Cole -an England international linked with a move to Anfield just months ago -was left isolated up front, with the only West Ham player looking dangerous being Mark Noble, whose hard work was undermined by the incompetence of his team-mates.
Whilst Fernando Torres, Rodriguez and even Christian Poulsen came close in the second half, no Liverpool player went out of their way to add to the score line – they knew just like the travelling supporters that West Ham offered little threat going forward, with the Hammers best chance of the game being headed wide by Piquionne in the dying minutes.
West Ham’s next game against fellow strugglers Wigan will be crucial. The East London outfit currently sit five points from safety and as more games pass relegation is becoming an increasingly realistic possibility.
Whilst the result on Saturday was a good one for the Reds the true extent of their recovery cannot be judged based on a performance against a poor West Ham side.
Next week Hodgson will take his side to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham, who in recent games can boast wins over local rivals Arsenal and European champions Inter Milan. A win against Spurs could see Liverpool begin to climb back up the table. A loss could see their stumbling start continue past Christmas.