Gutsy West Ham beaten by Gerrard’s penalty double for Liverpool
18:21 06 April 2014
Title-chasing Liverpool are given a real test by the battling Hammers before coming out on top
West Ham United 1 Liverpoool 2
Gritty, gutsy and gallant, the Hammers were applauded from the pitch following this narrow defeat against a Liverpool side, whose ninth-successive victory sent them back to the Premier League summit.
Last time out, despite beating Hull City, Sam Allardyce’s side were still booed from the Boleyn Ground, but there was certainly to be no repeat after his team battled toe-to-toe with the relieved Reds.
A Steven Gerrard penalty put Liverpool ahead just before the interval, only for Guy Demel to reply instantly with a controversial first-ever goal for the Hammers, but after Andy Carroll rocked the bar, another spot-kick from the Reds skipper 20 minutes from time finally kept Brendan Rodgers’ men on course for the title.
Back-to-back wins over Hull and Sunderland had left the Hammers in the relative safety of 11th-place with only the mathematicians leaving a question-mark over their Premier League future and following Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the Black Cats, Allardyce had made just one enforced change as full debutant Pablo Armero came in for George McCartney (hamstring).
A hat-trick of wins was always going to be the biggest of big asks against the rampant Reds, who arrived in the East End having won eight league games on the spin and, indeed, with just three minutes on the clock, Luis Suarez served up an early warning, when he floated a 30-yard free-kick just inches over both the flying Adrian and the Hammers crossbar.
Last Sunday’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur had made Liverpool the Premier League’s top dogs and, while Chelsea had regained pole-position yesterday evening, Rodgers also made just one change from the side that had beaten Spurs 4-0 as Mamadou Sakho came in for Daniel Agger.
And with the fired-up Hammers making a high-octane start, Sakho quickly found himself occupied during a lively opening that saw Martin Skrtel just manage to get in front of Carroll to steer Mohamed Diame’s by-line cross behind for the first corner of the game.
Carroll, who notoriously cost Liverpool a fulsome £35 million looked determined to prove former boss Rodgers wrong as he let fly with an ambitious 25-yarder that was blocked and then the striker’s flick-on to Kevin Nolan carried just a bit too much weight for his Scouse skipper.
On 20 minutes, though, dangerman Suarez picked up the pieces from his own half-cleared corner before curling a surprise 20-yarder on to the far angle and, shortly afterwards, the rampaging Raheem Sterling saw his angled effort held at the near post by Adrian.
Another break then saw the flying James Tomkins nod a goalbound effort from Suarez away for a corner, while Diame replied with a long-ranger that flew over at the other end.
Sturridge also blazed high over following some incisive passing play, before Mark Noble bent West Ham’s first free-kick of the afternoon around both the Liverpool wall and the left-hand post.
As the interval approached, Sturridge was again left standing with his hands on his hips after another wayward effort flew high into the Bobby Moore Stand to leave the first-half looking destined to end goalless.
But all hell broke loose in the closing moments as the tireless Suarez chased another through-pass into the Hammers area alongside Tomkins but as the Uruguayan hit-man checked to cut inside, the ball struck the counter-balancing Hammers defender on the wrist.
The arguments of the consequently-cautioned Tomkins fell on the deaf ears of referee Anthony Taylor and, once all the debate had died down, Gerrard stroked to resulting spot-kick into the bottom right-hand corner as Adrian headed in the opposite direction.
Incredibly, there was still more first-half drama to come in stoppage time, for when Noble floated over a last-gasp corner, Simon Mignolet spilled the ball under pressure from the high-flying Carroll, whose outstretched arm clearly caught the Liverpool ‘keeper.
Standing on the six-yard box, the delighted Demel gobbled up the scraps as he lashed the ball high into the net and, although, his assistant flagged for an infringement, referee Taylor went from East End villain to hero in an instant by over-ruling that call and handing West Ham an interval equaliser.
Livid Liverpool swapped Brazilians for the restart as Lucus Leiva came on for Philippe Coutinho and Suarez soon forced Adrian to sprint from his line to clear, while Sturridge also shot meekly at the Hammers keeper.
On the hour, though, it was Carroll, who came closest to separating the sides when he rose at the far post to meet Diame’s right-wing cross with a powerful far post header that crashed back off the Liverpool crossbar.
With 20 minutes remaining, however, it was Liverpool who gained the upper hand, when the subsequently booked Adrian dived into the feet of the overlapping Jon Flanagan and, although, the Hammers keeper dived the correct way this time, Gerrard still netted his 14th goal of the campaign with a rasping penalty that flew inside the left-hand post.
Having put in a serious shift, Nolan had already been replaced by Antonio Nocerino and with the Hammers now chasing the game, Matt Jarvis came on for the equally industrious Matt Taylor.
There was still time for Suarez to tickle the bar with an audacious, lofted chip, while Adrian was also forced to come out and slide-tackle the starving striker, who just could not nudge himself onto the 30-goal mark, while the Spanish keeper also produced a flying stop to deny Sterling but at the other end West Ham just could not muster the equaliser that their afternoon’s efforts deserved.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Demel, Armero, Reid, Tomkins, Downing, Diame (C. Cole 84) Taylor (Jarvis 78) Noble, Nolan (Nocerino 67), Carroll. Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, J.Cole, Potts, Johnson.
REDS: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Skrtel, Sakho, Sterling, Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho (Lucas h/t), Sturridge (Toure 84) Suarez. Unused subs: Jones, Aspas, Moses, Cissokho, Allen.
Bookings: Tomkins (43), Adrian (70), Nocerino (78), Armero (85).
Referee: Anthony Taylor