Goals from Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi helped Liverpool beat a depleted West Ham side by four goals to nil. The Reds have now won four out of five games they have played in London this year, drawing the other one, meaning they are unbeaten in a season in the capital for the first time since the 1988-89 campaign.
With Arsenal having won 4-1 away at Stoke yesterday, the pressure was all on Liverpool to deliver. And deliver they did, going one better than the Gunners could manage. Only Chelsea have scored more than the Reds this season now.
The opening stages saw West Ham attack and play without fear, exactly the type of performance you would expect with very little to play for at this stage in the season. Aaron Cresswell was finding a lot of space, and West Ham’s wing-backs were exploiting the space left by Liverpool’s narrow diamond formation.
With ten minutes gone, though, the tide began to turn. Adam Lallana won a corner which was swung in for Joel Matip to hit the bar from, whilst Coutinho tested Adrian with a firm left-foot drive from the edge of the box when it fell kindly for him to hit first time.
Liverpool were beginning to look more and more in control; Sturridge hit the side netting before James Milner screwed a shot wide of the target from a Nathaniel Clyne centre.
Ten minutes before the break, Liverpool finally found the goal they so desperately wanted. Coutinho, playing deeper than at any point this season, played a perfect pass into Sturridge’s path, with Jose Fonte playing him onside. The striker went around Adrian and slotted home – the celebratory arm dance was back. Might that be the last time we see it in a Liverpool shirt?
Matip again went close with a couple of headers from corners, and Liverpool were looking comfortable.
Just before half-time, however, Andre Ayew hit the post from two yards out, and somehow missed the rebound too. Simon Mignolet made a save, but the Ghanaian should have found the equaliser. Liverpool were let off the hook, and extremely fortunate to survive.
The Reds seemed determined to make the most of that piece of luck, and immediately in the second half went on the attack. Another goal to them would kill the game completely.
Divock Origi, Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum all had chances to score, but Adrian stood firm.
West Ham made changes, with Sofiane Feghouli entering the field at the same time as Ashley Fletcher, but Liverpool doubled their lead soon later.
Wijnaldum looped a superb shot towards goal, but could only hit the bar. The rebound, though, fell to Coutinho, who dribbled past a couple of defenders and drilled a shot into the bottom left corner.
If that was not game over, the third goal arrived just minutes later.
First, Gini Wijnaldum escaped a handball shout in his own box – in truth, it was not deliberate and would have been a harsh call had it been given – before he found Coutinho in space.
The Brazilian, missing his usual compatriot Roberto Firmino through injury, drove forwards into the box, jinked past a couple more players, and fired past Adrian to score. West Ham were still fuming from the non-decision at the other end, but Coutinho simply took advantage and ended the contest.
The travelling supporters were ecstatic, whilst many of the home fans were starting to leave. Lots of the West Ham seats had been empty from the start anyway, but the poor showing so far was doing little to help.
Origi hit a fierce shot against the crossbar from 25 yards, and Coutinho hit a free-kick miles over the bar, but the result had already been finalised.
The final goal came courtesy of Origi, when Lallana’s shot was saved and the ball fell perfectly into his path. All he had to do was tap the ball in.
Origi should later have found Daniel Sturridge but wasted a two-v-one situation, and there were no more goals to come.
Liverpool swelled their goal difference anyway, but the main thing was the three points.
West Ham end their debut season at the London Stadium in dismal fashion, but Liverpool will not care. For them, a win against Middlesbrough on the final day guarantees a top four place; had you offered that to them at the start of the season, they would have taken it without a second thought.
This was a job well done at a crucial point, and Liverpool responded perfectly to earlier results.
Simon Mignolet, 7 – did well with what he had to deal with, but was probably expecting to be a little busier, especially after the slow first ten minutes
Nathaniel Clyne, 7 – offered some width at times and defended well; did not do much wrong
Joel Matip, 7 – hit the bar and could have scored another couple of times; had little to do other than that
Dejan Lovren, 7 – like Matip, had little to do, but did it well
James Milner, 7 – offered more of a threat going forward than Clyne, but his lack of a left foot is very frustrating
Emre Can, 8 – made some good tackles and drove the attacks from the base of the diamond
Philippe Coutinho, 9 – the best player on the pitch by a mile; no one would have guessed it was the first time he had played that deeper role, and he can expect to play it a lot more next season
Gini Wijnaldum, 7 – had a pretty poor first half but the second saw him hit the bar and force a good save from Adrian; grew into it and had a decent influence on the game
Adam Lallana, 8 – quality throughout; enjoys playing with Sturridge, who offers more of a threat than Origi on his own
Divock Origi, 6 – scored a simple goal, but made some poor decisions and held the ball up very little; he will be the one to make way for Firmino should he return next weekend
Daniel Sturridge, 8 – showed his quality by creating chance after chance and scored the opener which was crucial; unfortunately, the issue is not his quality, but his fitness, which is why he might not be around for too much longer
Lucas (87th minute sub.), n/a – eased back from injury and had nothing to deal with
Ben Woodburn (89th minute sub.), n/a
Marko Grujic (89th minute sub.), n/a
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