FULLTIME AT ANFIELD REVIEW: ROCKY PATCH CONTINUES FOR REDS AS WEST HAM FORCE 1-1 DRAW
Most may argue with me that Liverpool have had one of the best attacks in Europe for the past decade but it seems every single league campaign since the advent of the EPL seems to crumble courtesy of our abysmal defenses and consistently silly mistakes in our final third (again do not remind me of “slippy”!).
Last week our title challenge got a slight dent after some questionable keeping by Loris Karius and now it seems our “trusted” goalie wanted to put the punctuation mark to his woeful performance with yet another absolutely horrendous howler, yuletide gift really, and with another amateurish mistake from Matip, our frail defenses got us sharing the points on the evening with potential relegation scrappers, West Ham. I mean, how hard can it be to put away a team that’s on a streak of bad-form? Liverpool back-line really showed us anything’s possible in this EPL. Despite our mistakes at the back, West Ham got a bit of favor from the officials as two glaring penalties were denied us; it certainly would have changed the complexion of the game if adjudged correctly.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Karius; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Henderson, Lallana, Wijnaldum; Firmino, Mane, Origi.
Sub(s) used: Ragnar Klavan.
With Emre Can out with injury post-Bournemouth, Lallana got the nod, back from injury, as well as Joel Matip who replaced Lucas Leiva, signaling a positive reshuffle from our forgettable performance against Bournemouth last weekend.
The Reds took the lead in the fifth minute as a break down the left saw Mane fire a low ball into the box finding Lallana who moved across Reid and Cresswell to control with one touch before placing the ball into the corner with a neat strike.
West Ham tried to hit straight back within minutes through a corner that Karius failed to clear, our trusty keeper FedEx-ing it straight to Lanzini, but the Argentine could not capitalize as he struck his attempt over the bar.
Firmino’s form hasn’t quite been the same either since Coutinho’s exit from the team as the Brazilian has failed time and again to make his presence felt, today was no different as in the 15th minute, our man wasted a pin-point pass from Sadio Mane with a poor first touch that made it infinitely more difficult for his resulting strike to cause Darren Randolph any worries.
Liverpool uncharacteristically started letting the Hammers have a lot more ball time and sat back as their danger-man, Dmitri Payet, started orchestrating some dangerous plays in our half. Being on the back-foot made us resort to more arcane methods to take the ball off the Hammers as in the 26th minute, Lallana lost his head as he went in with a rash challenge to halt Obiang’s progress; totally unwise as the resulting set-piece was well in Payet’s comfort zone.
The Frenchman made us pay with his curling direct freekick that got over the wall and into the bottom corner through the hands of Karius. Unbelievable by our young German who left himself with too much to do as he gifted Payet a lot of our goal to aim at with questionable positioning for the setpiece and his right hand failing to keep out the strike.
For the next few minutes the Reds played with a lot more urgency but Firmino just couldn’t convert a clear-cut chance in the 37th minute that saw the Brazilian latching on to an immaculate pass from Mane but his shot had no bite on it, his effort trickling wide of Randolph’s goal.
With our efforts getting too few and far between and our build-up looking a lot diluted, the Hammers started fancying their chances, taking it to our fragile backline and almost on cue, we faltered as Matip failed to clear the danger from a simple ball over the top which saw Antonio pounce on his mistake leaving himself with just Karius to beat, and with a perfect lob over the German, Antonio’s ball trickled past the goal-line to get the Hammers their second goal of the evening.
As the half drew to a close, the Reds got a penalty shout as Payet clashed into Lallana on the right side of West Ham’s box, bringing down the England midfielder but Clattenburg had other ideas, ruling against us in what was to be the final action of the half.
Just three minutes into the second half saw Liverpool reassert their valor with a little help from Hammer goalie, Darren Randolph, to get back in the game after he fumbled a Mane cross that fell kindly to Divock Origi, the Belgian made no mistake from five yards out to send the simple finish in to get us level.
Perfect start to the half but that was to be the only shining light in the half-hour after the second half kickoff as Liverpool struggled to find their clinical edge in the final third.
The final 15 minutes of the game saw both teams raise their game up to seize all three points with notable efforts from Wijnaldum, Milner, and Payet but the scores remained level up till the final whistle as the Reds blinked again in their title campaign this season with another disappointing performance this time in front of the Kop.
MAN OF THE MATCH: JORDAN HENDERSON
Our captain did all he could in what was to be another lack-luster team performance as the Reds couldnt strike enough fear into Hammer hearts, although his smart attempts to hold the midfield together stopped many of Payet’s forays into our half. He also made very notable contributions in getting the ball forward in both goals and other close attempts but in the end couldn’t see his wit crowned with 3 points as rookie mistakes from Loris Karius and Joel Matip gave Bilic’s men a way into the game.