A well-organised performance from West Ham at the London stadium left the league leaders frustrated as they left with just a single point in their quest for the title.
Despite a West Ham side with multiple injuries to key players, namely; Arnautovic, Yarmolenko, Wilshere and Lanzini, the home side managed to compete across the entire pitch with a Liverpool side who weren’t entirely at the races. But perhaps it was the Hammers who forced Liverpool to play badly and display a rather discouarging performance.
The Hammers made next to no mistakes, they held their backline perfectly and nullified most attacks while managing to get forward themselves when in possession. Despite the Reds boasting 73% of the possession, it was West Ham who were perhaps unfortunate to not come away with three points. Pellegrini’s side, as mentioned, were basically missing four of their best-attacking players which would hurt any side – basically like a Liverpool side without Salah, Mane and Firmino.
For this reason alone, West Ham struggled upfront with a lack of quality in front of goal and chances came and went with the likes of Declan Rice heading over from close range as well as other chances whizzing past the post. If the Hammers had a fully fit squad at their disposal, the result could have fallen considerably in their favour and Liverpool may count themselves fortunate to come away with a point.
Liverpool helped by dodgy officiating
I am glad I am not Manuel Pellegrini today. Managers, coaching staff and players are all bound by what they can and can’t say in the media. Fortunately for us, we can say what we want. Liverpool’s first goal was an incredulous onside call. The linesman was out of position and the play was too close for him to see, but after some beautiful footwork from Lallana to flick a ball into the path of Milner when he looked to be closed off, it was the latter who was at least a metre offside before assisting the opener.
Milner made no mistake though and credit to him, he didn’t even blink and found Mane who turned his defender and slotted into the far corner. The game was very open up to this point and West Ham were clearly on top. Thankfully for the Hammers, it didn’t take them long to equalise and neutralise the lead that shouldn’t have stood. A training ground free kick, as Noble confirmed in his post-match interview, meant Liverpool were caught napping and it was once again Antonio who scored against the Reds, finding the bottom corner.
Speaking about officiating, the referee himself did okay in the game. There were no brash decisions, the two yellow cards (Matip/Chicharito) were indeed warranted but it was the linesman who was off all night. Although the first goal was a bad call, there was another Liverpool chance which materialised in the second half which was given offside when it wasn’t and right at the end, the last kick off the game saw Keita clip a ball over the top to Origi who, you guessed it, was offside but the flag didn’t go up.
Thankfully for West Ham, Origi couldn’t steer it either side of Fabianski in the West Ham goal but if he had, the papers today would have spoken of three points picked up by two howling errors by the linesman. I’m sort of glad that didn’t go in… no one wants to win the league by sheer luck.
Another point closer
As a Liverpool fan, I truly believe it was a point gained here. We didn’t deserve anything from the game at all, the better chances we created weren’t good enough and the ones which were good enough were offside. I am a realist and although as a Red my judgement isn’t clouded. We were poor, buildup play was slow and our defence (including Alisson) is nowhere near the standard it was earlier in the season.
Yes, this mostly comes down to some key injuries at the back but a side challenging for the title needs to cope with that. Some perspective needed though after two poor 1-1 draws in a row, Liverpool are still three points clear and although Man City can take top spot if they beat Everton on Wednesday night, Liverpool will still have a game in hand. If this is to be the end of Liverpool’s rough patch, I’d take it that’s for sure.
Four more big games left for Liverpool in February as they take on Bournemouth (H) next. Klopp will need his side to take all three points in that one to steady the ship. After Bournemouth comes the return of the Champions League and Bayern Munich (H) followed by Manchester Utd (A) and Watford (H). Providing Liverpool get out of the rough patch and have a good month going into March, it could be an incredible finish to an already incredible season so far.
West Ham are sitting in 12th, ten points from relegation. They look to be clear of any danger so, for now, I’m sure they are going to be looking at improving their game and hoping results come with it. They take on Crystal Palace (A) next followed by Fulham (H), two games that are winnable. The last game in February takes place at the Etihad against Manchester City so West Ham could yet play a part in this title race. Liverpool fans will be hoping West Ham’s injuries subside before the end of the month so they are fully fit to face the Citizens but time will tell.