West Ham held off a late Liverpool fightback to win 3-2 and leapfrog their opponents in the Premier League table.
The opening goal arrived just minutes in as a West Ham corner was swung at and mostly missed by Alisson Becker’s fist, resulting in an own goal from the ‘keeper. While the home side then sat back, allowing the visitors all of the possession, it looked a struggle for Liverpool to break down two hard-working banks of four, until Mohamed Salah’s skill won a free-kick on the edge of the area – which Trent Alexander-Arnold sent into the top corner.
Straight after the restart Craig Dawson’s header hit the bar for the Hammers, while Sadio Mane then fired straight at the home team’s goalkeeper from close range. But rather than the Reds push on from that, it was West Ham who retook and then extended their lead: Pablo Fornals breaking clear to beat Alisson, before Kurt Zouma nodded in another dangerous corner delivery.
Divock Origi swivelled to finish and pull one back for Liverpool, but Mane sent a header wide at the death in the Reds’ final chance to preserve a point.
Here are five things we learned from the match on Sunday.
Coming into the match, Liverpool had scored the joint-second highest number of goals in the Premier League from set-pieces (not including penalties), with five. West Ham were just one goal back, on four.
No surprise, then, that they played an important part in the match here – even if the first of them wasn’t quite as anybody could have expected. Alisson complained that his punching arm was impeded by the defender in front of him, which it perhaps was to a very minor degree, but not enough to call a foul or overturn the goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick was inch-perfect in response, for his first league goal of the season, while sub Craig Dawson hit the bar with a header from another corner just after the restart.
That was far from the end with two more set plays decisive: Kurt Zouma ran in unmarked to score at the far post to open up what was ultimately an unassailable lead, but only because at the opposite end, Mane sent his own diving header just past the post in stoppage time after another tremendous Trent delivery.
Build-up vs blocking
The first half at the London Stadium was effectively a training exercise: A deep block defence, repelling the constant possession of a seven-man attack. How do you find the space and circulate the ball to find room to create chances?
Liverpool didn’t find the answer in that first 45 minutes, with the pattern of play able to be set thanks to that very early West Ham goal.
Far from it being a criticism that the home side sat back and tried to see out long stretches, it speaks volumes to their all-round organisation that they were able to constantly switch tack: well-drilled defence while ahead, an immediate switch to counter-attacking and putting pressure on the visiting defence when the game was back in the balance.
Moyes and his players simply flicked the switch to go from containment to attack and, ultimately, they proved better at it on the day than Liverpool.
Two great chances fell the way of Sadio Mane, but he failed to beat Lukasz Fabianski with either – effectively the only decent openings Liverpool fashioned all game long.
The No10 was heavily involved in the first half but his chances were at the start and end of the second 45; one snapshot straight at the goalkeeper, when a yard either side would surely have seen him net given the ferocity of the strike and his proximity to goal, then a header sent off-target as the clock ticked into injury time.
Both the delivery and the run were perfect for the would-be-equaliser, and Fabianski again had no chance – but it ran off-target and there was no second chance for the Reds.
Mohamed Salah, meanwhile, has now gone three without a goal after his record-breaking run of scoring in consecutive matches beforehand.
David Moyes managed his 1000th game as a boss in midweek, which was a bit of a low-key draw.
Just after Steve Bruce hit the milestone and then was unceremoniously sacked by Newcastle straight after, this result only shows that the Hammers boss is going from strength to strength.
Given how dismal spells with Man United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland had gone before his first stint at West Ham, this revival is all the more remarkable and all the more impressive.
Moyes has worked absolute wonders across the last 16 months and the entire club must feel this season represents the opportunity of an entire generation.
Top four talk
At kick-off this was fourth against third, leaving West Ham able to leapfrog Liverpool with a win – or the Reds to move back to within a point of the top if they claimed victory themselves.
Of course, by full time it’s the latter – leaving Jurgen Klopp’s side facing the fact of having lost only once in all competitions this season, yet it being only good enough for fourth place in the Premier League table.
It speaks volumes of the challenge of winning the title, but perhaps more about the value of winning – the Reds have drawn four from 11, which is a costly return already.
West Ham, meanwhile, will doubtless try to keep a lid on the excitement but they earned European football last season and will justifiably think, if only to themselves, that they can really go the distance and keep a top-four push on this term, given how far away from their own level of consistency the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United are.
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