For long periods, West Ham frustrated an attack that had appeared irresistible, but they were undone by a majestic through-ball from Steven Gerrard a minute before half time, writes Jonathan Wilson.
Gerrard brace pushes Liverpool past West Ham United
West Ham United 1 Liverpool 2
West Ham United Demel 45’+2
Liverpool Gerrard 44’ (pen), 71’ (pen)
Man of the match Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
LONDON // As well as the flamboyance, there is resilience. Liverpool won a ninth match in a row to go two points clear at the top of the Premier League table, but this was a victory rooted less in the attacking prowess that has carried them this far than on spirit and what Brian Clough liked to term “moral courage”.
Fundamentally, in the face of an awful refereeing decision from Anthony Taylor, they maintained their composure and enjoyed a stroke of fortune when Taylor then made a contentious decision in their favour.
Taylor is no stranger to controversy – on this ground, in a game between West Ham United and Everton in December 2012, to take just one example, he showed red cards to a player from each team for raised feet, both subsequently overturned – but he will never have faced the sort of scrutiny he will be subjected to this week, having allowed a West Ham goal after his linesman seemed to have flagged for an obvious foul and then given a highly debatable second penalty to Liverpool.
For long periods, West Ham frustrated an attack that had appeared irresistible, but they were undone by a majestic through-ball from Steven Gerrard a minute before half time.
From deep in his own half, the Liverpool captain picked out the run of Luis Suarez and, when he turned inside, his flick was stopped by the hand of James Tomkins. It was an obvious penalty and one Gerrard converted.
West Ham, mystifyingly, complained about that decision, but the real controversy came a minute later.
As Simon Mignolet caught a corner kick, he was hit on the side of his head and then the arm by an airborne Andy Carroll.
He dropped the ball as a result and Guy Demel stabbed the loose ball in. Liverpool were convinced it had been a foul and were supported by the linesman, who flagged.
Taylor, though, after a discussion with his assistant – as a replay of the incident played on the giant TV screen behind them – awarded the goal. Even Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager, acknowledged it was a foul. “You look at the two decisions and you say they’re wrong,” he said.
Gerrard spoke of a sense of injustice and of the importance of overcoming that. “The manager said to us at half time that we can’t change anything,” he said.
“It happens. They even themselves out over the season and that one went against us, but we couldn’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“We had to roll our sleeves up and give an extra 10 per cent and that’s what we did. Tough game, tough 90 minutes, but great resolve, character, togetherness from the squad.”
Carroll, who scored one and made one in West Ham’s victory at Sunderland last Monday, had offered a vague threat against his former club throughout, and he headed against the bar early in the second half.
Slowly, though, Liverpool’s possession began to wear West Ham down and, with 20 minutes remaining, Jon Flanagan was played through down the inside left channel.
Goalkeeper Adrian came out to challenge him and took the ball, his arm then catching the full-back.
Taylor, in what seemed a classic case of trying to make amends for his earlier error, gave the penalty – “he was chasing the game,” as Brendan Rodgers put it, although the Liverpool manager insisted the contact Adrian made on Flanagan after initially touching the ball was a foul.
Captain Gerrard again converted for his 13th league goal of the season.
Suarez twice hit the bar with sublime chips, and Daniel Sturridge was unusually wasteful, which left Liverpool facing an awkward final 10 minutes as West Ham subjected them to an aerial barrage.
Rodgers, though, is in a period in which he can do no wrong: he brought on Kolo Toure and switched formation to a back three, which held out with the resolve that had characterised Liverpool throughout.
The home game against Manchester City on Sunday now takes on even more importance, but with goals and grit, there is a sense of momentum with Liverpool.
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