Four-midable Liverpool sweep West Ham aside in one-sided opener
PUBLISHED: 15:38 12 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:38 12 August 2018
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The Hammers crash at Anfield as Pellegrini suffers disapponting first game loss
Liverpool 4 West Ham United 0
It proved a miserable, Merseyside start to the new season for the expensively assembled, new look Hammers, who slumped to a forlorn first-game defeat at the hands of the rampant Reds.
After last season’s Footballer of the Year, Mohamed Salah had carried on from where he left off to give Liverpool a 19th-minute lead, Sadio Mané followed up with a deadly double either side of the break, before substitute Daniel Sturridge rounded off victory with just two minutes remaining.
And as Jürgen Klopp’s men celebrated their 500th Premier League victory, Manuel Pellegrini’s men left Liverpool for another season knowing that they have won just once on their last 50 visits to Anfield.
Both clubs had splashed the cash big time in the transfer window and, with little change from his £100m summer spending spree, Pellegrini handed Hammers debuts to five of his signings as record-signing Felipe Anderson, Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Fabian Balbuena and Jack Wilshere each made their first starts, while Andriy Yarmolenko and Issa Diop had to be content with places on the bench.
With Liverpool determined to test the resolve of Pellegrini’s West Ham United, it was Fabianski, who quickly found himself the busiest of the new boys during an opening quarter-hour played out largely in the Hammers half.
Roberto Firmino, Mané and Salah were each foiled by the under pressure Pole, while Anderson found himself helping out defensively on the back foot as opposed to offensively testing Liverpool on the front boot.
Following his side’s Champions League final defeat in May, Klopp had trumped his Chilean counterpart with a £175m close-season spend and the German handed starts to ‘keeper Alisson Becker (£65m) and Naby Keita (£54m) while Fabinho (£43m) and Xherdan Shaqiri (£13m) were named as substitutes.
Apart from seeing sole-striker Marco Arnautović force the first corner of the game, Alisson was proving the most costly spectator of the afternoon and, on 19 minutes, the Brazilian stopper watched from afar as fellow new-boy Keita charged towards the heart of the Hammers defence.
With the visitors’ rearguard about to ambush him, the Guinean midfielder cleverly played in the overlapping Andrew Robertson, whose low, left-wing cross into the six-yard box was tapped home by Salah, who ghosted between Angelo Ogbonna and Arthur Masuaku to inevitably break the deadlock for the Reds.
Shortly afterwards, Trent Alexander-Arnold was booked for tugging back the breaking Anderson and, with the full-back remaining in the thick of things, the England World Cup defender then saw his goal-bound, 25-yard free-kick spectacularly clawed out from under his right-hand angle by the flying Fabianski.
As the half-hour mark approached, the isolated Arnautović forced another corner and, when Anderson floated over the consequent flag-kick from the right, Balbuena steered a powerful 10-yard header into Alisson’s gloves.
On 35 minutes, Salah almost doubled his tally but – just six yards out - he could only steer Firmino’s inviting low cross into Fabianski’s rib-cage and, as the interval beckoned, Liverpool’s dangerman was again foiled by the Polish stopper, who bravely dived into the Egyptian’s studs.
But just when West Ham thought they were about to depart at the break just one goal adrift, the Reds doubled their lead in added time, when Robertson sent over a deep left-wing cross that James Milner cut back from the by-line for Mané to clip past the helplessly-exposed Fabianski from six yards.
That late strike was a bitter blow for Pellegrini, who introduced Robert Snodgrass for Declan Rice for the second half and, shortly after the restart, the Scottish wide man curled over a right-wing corner, which Anderson nodded towards the far post, where an off-balance Michail Antonio hooked high into the Kop.
Antonio was then booked for scything Alexander-Arnold but it was not long until normal service was resumed for the Reds, who netted a controversial third on 53 minutes to put the game well beyond West Ham’s reach.
Cutting in from the right, Milner squared to Firmino who slotted the ball into the path of a clearly offside Mané, who had danced behind the pushed-up visitors but as the Senegalese striker gleefully claimed his second goal of the afternoon with a low 15-yarder, the assistant’s flag curiously stayed down to the frustration of everyone claret and blue.
Balbuena was then cautioned for deliberate handball before Javier Hernández replaced Anderson and Yarmolenko then came on for Arnautović and as both teams played out what was now a foregone conclusion, Jordan Henderson and Shaqiri stepped from the bench in place of Firmino and Man-of-the-Match, Mané.
But with two minutes remaining, Liverpool’s third and final substitution saw Salah replaced by Sturridge, who topped off the Reds emphatic victory, when he outmuscled Fredericks to bundled home at the far post with his first touch after Milner’s corner had skimmed off Snodgrass’ scalp.
REDS: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Gomez, Milner, Keita, Salah (Sturridge 86), Firmino (Henderson 69), Mané (Shaqiri 81). Unused subs: Karius, Clyne, Fabinho, Lallana.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Fredericks, Masuaku, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Noble, Rice (Snodgrass h/t), Wilshere, Anderson (Hernàndez 62), Antonio, Arnautović (Yarmolenko 67). Unused subs: Adrián, Zabaleta, Obiang, Diop.
Booked: Alexander-Arnold (21), Antonio (52), Balbuena (55).
Referee: Anthony Taylor