A late goalscoring flurry, led once again by Luis Suarez, helped Liverpool to a second successive, emphatic home victory as they ultimately put West Ham to the sword in a 4-1 win on Saturday.
Following his four-goal haul against Norwich in midweek, Suarez scored his side’s all-important third goal and then found the net for the clinching fourth—helped significantly by a wicked deflection off Joey O’Brien—to ease the Reds to victory, ending brief hopes of a comeback that West Ham harboured when Martin Skrtel had turned into his own net to make it 2-1.
Liverpool had struggled for fluency in the first half, but were eventually gifted the game’s opener as Guy Demel bundled into his own net. Mamadou Sakho doubled that advantage with the decisive connection from Steven Gerrard’s free-kick.
The victory for Liverpool was tempered somewhat by an injury to Gerrard, however, as the club captain was forced off shortly before the hour mark with what appeared to be a thigh injury.
West Ham too lost their captain, as Kevin Nolan was dismissed late on for a studs-up challenge on Jordan Henderson.
"It was a difficult game, West Ham are a committed side," Reds manager Brendan Rodgers told the BBC. "We started slowly but once we got the goal, it allowed us to flow better.
"In the end we had 29 attempts at goal, and we could have scored more than four. It was a great victory."
Having seen his side, and Suarez in particular, perform so impressively against the Canaries, Rodgers made just one change to his line-up—drafting Sakho into his defence for the ill Daniel Agger.
West Ham, in contrast, shuffled the pack somewhat after a loss to Crystal Palace, as George McCartney, Matt Jarvis, Modibo Maiga and Demel all started.
If West Ham expected to be terrorised by Suarez from the start, then that was not quite the case, with the visitors holding their own for much of the first half. Indeed, they perhaps had the best chance of the period, as Maiga saw his powerful header brilliantly palmed away by Simon Mignolet.
On the verge of half-time, however, Liverpool took the advantage—although they knew little about it. Suarez’s powerful right-foot volley was well saved by a stretching Jussi Jaaskelainen, but Demel was too close to the action and could only watch forlornly as the ball hit him on the shins and bundled into the goal.
Almost immediately after the break the advantage was doubled, as Gerrard’s free-kick was met by Sakho, whose header bounced off the ground and past Jaaskelainen. James Collins attempted to clear it off the line, but was narrowly unable to get it out from under his own crossbar.
Emboldened by those goals, Liverpool began to play with a renewed vigour, with Suarez and Gerrard both missing great openers. The latter was forced off after one such attempt, seeming to pull his calf in the process.
It seemed to be all one-way traffic, but suddenly Sam Allardyce’s men were handed a way back into the match. This time it was Skrtel’s fault, as the defender turned a cut-back beyond his goalkeeper at the near post after something of a misunderstanding.
Liverpool needed a bit of insurance, and it was Suarez who provided it. The Uruguayan had been his usual live wire self inside and outside the box all game but had exhibited an ice-cold finishing touch—blazing at least two gilt-edged chances well wide of goal.
But a Glen Johnson cross with nine minutes left was perfectly waiting for Suarez to convert, and three minutes later Suarez turned Mark Noble inside out before unleashing a shot that wickedly deflected off O’Brien and found the net off the underside of the crossbar.
It was initially put down as yet another own goal, although Suarez will no doubt attempt to claim it.
Liverpool head to White Hart Lane next Sunday to face Tottenham, in what will be a test of their real credentials this season. West Ham, meanwhile, host Sunderland at Upton Park a day earlier in a similar "yardstick" encounter.