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    West Ham United 2-0 Liverpool Match Report

    Liverpool's rollercoaster season took another turn for the worse on Saturday as West Ham recorded their first double over the Reds in 52 years. Michail Antonio's header after only 10 minutes began what was to prove a day to forget for Jurgen Klopp's team, who could not match the Hammers' energy as well as the quality they showed in the final third of the field.

    To rub further salt into the wound, it was former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll who scored the decisive second goal, early in the second half, to condemn the visitors to their third defeat in the last six league matches. Whilst Liverpool dominated possession, they did not pose the same attacking threat as their powerful opponents and succumbed to the home side's greater spirit and clinical finishing. The West Ham front three caused problems all afternoon for the away side's defence, who were easily outmanouvered and dominated in aerial positions.

    Liverpool were denied by the post in the first half, although it was the Hammers who created the better chances and were unfortunate that the scoreline did not reflect a wider margin of victory. West Ham hit the woodwork themselves and were also denied on several occasions by Simon Mignolet, who produced a double save to deny Carroll and Antonio and also saved well from Cheikhou Kouyate. The only blemish on a wonderful afternoon for the home side was an injury sustained by Manuel Lanzini, who is set for a spell on the sidelines with a tendon problem.

    West Ham went into the game on the back of six matches without defeat, although the 2-1 home victory over Southampton five days earlier was the only match that had brought the club maximum points. Aaron Cresswell returned from a hamstring injury, while Andy Carroll and Manuel Lanzini were recalled after making influential appearances as half-time substitutes against Southampton. Alexandre Song, Mauro Zarate and Carl Jenkinson all dropped to the bench, where they were joined by Dimitri Payet, who was returning after being sidelined for seven matches with ankle injury.

    Liverpool, meanwhile, were in search of a third successive league win for the first time this season after 1-0 wins over Leicester at Anfield and Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. They recalled Lucas Leiva and Jordon Ibe to the starting XI after both men had made substitute appearances against Sunderland, while Adam Lallana was dropped to the bench and Jordan Henderson missed out with a heel injury.

    The home side only had to wait 10 minutes before taking the lead, with Michail Antonio scoring for the second successive game when he headed home Enner Valencia's cross. The move started deep in the West Ham half when the former Nottingham Forest forward slide-tackled Alberto Moreno, which set up a counter-attack that spread the length of the field. Having made his way up field, he climbed above Nathaniel Clyne to fling himself towards Valencia's inch-perfect cross and headed home from six yards.

    Exactly 45 minutes later, West Ham doubled their lead and it was Andy Carroll who headed Mark Noble's cross past Simon Mignolet, achieving what he only managed 11 times in 58 matches in a Liverpool shirt. Carroll, who remains the Reds' record signing at £35 million, arrived late in the box and with Clyne more interested in marking Valencia, it allowed the forward the space to head home Noble's cross unchallenged from 10 yards.

    The home side went close several times throughout the match, no more so than when Lanzini tried a speculative effort from 20 yards, which dipped and swerved before it cannoned off the post. Aaron Cresswell also had a good chance to add to Antonio's opener when he struck a low effort from nine yards towards Mignolet's near-post, but the Belgian did well to scramble the shot away low down to his right.

    The introduction of Dimitri Payet shortly after Carroll's goal was arguably a more significant moment in West Ham's season that either of the club's goals. The Frenchman, who was inspirational in West Ham's successful start to the campaign, has missed the past two months of action with an ankle injury. The Hammers struggled in his absence, failing to win the first six matches, but returned to form in the 2-1 victory over Southampton in the final match of 2015.

    Shortly after Carroll doubled West Ham's lead, he had the opportunity to put the game firmly out of the visitors' reach but his header from Cresswell's cross was saved by Mignolet, with Antonio failing to turn in the rebound. With Liverpool willing to send more players forward to find a way back into the match, they were particularly vulnerable on the counter-attack and were nearly punished by Kouyate, who was played in on goal by Payet but his effort was well saved by Mignolet.

    Liverpool did create some chances of their own, with Jordon Ibe nearly giving the visitors an early lead when his strike from just outside the penalty area went inches wide of Adrian's post. Roberto Firmino was inches away from turning in an equaliser from close range, while Emre Can's 20-yard effort did finally have the beating of Spaniard but he was denied by the crossbar. Lucas was also denied a consolation goal when his close-range header was cleared off the line by Noble and Joe Allen missed the final chance of the game when he headed narrowly wide from Coutinho's cross.

    It was a thoroughly professional performance by West Ham, who looked hungrier and more energised than their opponents and can now add a double over Liverpool to their list of achievements this season that includes wins over Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea. They are now unbeaten at home since August, a run of eight matches, and have recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since October.

    Following the return from injury of Payet, the heartbeat of the team has now returned and the club can start setting their sights on a strong finish to the season. The win takes them into sixth position, two points and two places ahead of Liverpool, who sit in eighth position. The only tinge of disappointment from the afternoon occurred when Lanzini was forced off with a tendon problem before half-time, which could keep him on the sidelines for over a month.

    For Liverpool, their stop-start season has yet again seen the club take two steps forward, followed by one step back. They always looked susceptible to the Hammers' aerial bombardment, with Andy Carroll in particular looking every bit the player that attracted the Reds to break their transfer record in order to sign five years ago.

    By contrast, Christian Benteke, who cost £3 million less, endured a woeful afternoon and was often let down by a poor first touch. With the club's striking options limited due to injuries sustained by Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Danny Ings, the Belgian did very little to stake a long-term claim to the centre-foward position. He was not alone in failing to provide the inspiration that Liverpool needed, with Ibe, Firmino and Coutinho all lacking the form that they displayed earlier in the season.

    Jurgen Klopp was left angry with the performance, lamenting both the team's finishing as well as their commitment, which he described as being at only 90 per cent. Klopp will also be worried by the performances of his back-four, with Nathaniel Clyne particularly culpable in being beaten in the air for both goals. The performance brought back echoes of the loss to Watford, where they were undone by the pace and movement of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney.

    West Ham return to action on Saturday, with an FA Cup third round tie at home to Wolves, before travelling to in-form Bournemouth on Tuesday in the Premier League. After Tuesday's Capital One Cup semi-final away to Stoke City, Liverpool face the tricky trip to Exeter in the FA Cup on Friday night. There will be no let up for the Reds whilst they remain in four competitions, with a home match against Arsenal awaiting them at Anfield on Wednesday.
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    Item Reviewed: West Ham United 2-0 Liverpool Match Report Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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