Liverpool Grind out Win at West Ham, Take Another Big Step Toward Title

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2014

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Liverpool held their nerve to grind out their ninth consecutive Premier League victory, returning to the top of the table and keeping their title ambitions alive.

Two Steven Gerrard penalties gave Brendan Rodgers' side the victory over West Ham United despite referee Anthony Taylor having wrongly allowed Guy Demel's goal to stand on the stroke of half-time.

This was a huge win for Rodgers' side—producing very much the cliche of a title winning side, winning when not at their best.

9 - Liverpool have won nine PL games in a row, the best run in the division since Man Utd recorded 11 in succession in 2008-09. Surge.

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 6, 2014

This was due to West Ham nullifying Liverpool's attacking threats. Sam Allardyce's side sat extremely deep to not allow the space in behind for Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge to profit. Allardyce showed more tactical acumen than Tim Sherwood last week and Arsene Wenger when their sides came to Anfield.

Thankfully for Liverpool, Taylor levelled up his huge blunder by awarding another spot-kick for Adrian's challenge on Jon Flanagan, and Gerrard kept his cool to slot home his second penalty of the match.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Steven Gerrard (C)of Liverpool celebrates with teammate Raheem Sterling (L) after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground o
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Those goals put Gerrard ahead of Kenny Dalglish in the club's all-time leading goalscoring charts. Gerrard is now sixth, one ahead of the Scot on 173 goals and 10 behind Robbie Fowler in fifth.

That's 10 goals in his last 13 games for the captain, incredible form and ability to hold his nerve from the 12 yards being key to that success.

It embodies how Liverpool are showing more to their game than just the attacking, ruthless and exciting machine that Rodgers has created this season. They are now able to grind out victories such as this.

Much attention is being placed upon the two home clashes against fellow title challengers Manchester City and Chelsea, but as Henry Jackson of This Is Anfield explained, the two trips to London to face West Ham and later Crystal Palace could be equally huge in the title run-in. Just ask John Terry.

Suarez and Sturridge were not at their best at Upton Park but the three points is the only thing that matters for Liverpool in the title run-in. This was incredibly the first time Liverpool have won a Premier League game this season when neither Suarez nor Sturridge has scored, as per Opta Joe.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Steven Gerrard #8 of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on April 6, 2014 in London, England
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Interesting was the sight of Dr. Steve Peters behind the bench, the esteemed sports psychiatrist having also been in attendance at Old Trafford for the Reds' victory there last month. Is his involvement increasing as the title chase enters the final sprint?

Mental strength was on display in the Liverpool side in this victory, as it has been increasing during this campaign.

"There are some very hard games to go—we've got a huge game next week," Gerrard told Sky Sports (via after the game. "The message is to stay calm. "

Gerrard added: "We'll give everything we can now and every time we go on the pitch, we've got to leave every single ounce of energy and determination out there. That's what we're planning to do."

Liverpool are certainly holding their nerve against all the odds, quite literally against all the odds when Taylor did his best to ensure victory was made difficult when he overruled the assistant despite his view of the incident that led to West Ham's equaliser.

Rodgers used the full squad to his best too by bringing on the experience of Kolo Toure in the final stages—the Ivorian being one of a few players in the squad with experience of winning a title previously.

Next up for Liverpool is arguably the biggest game the club has ever faced in the Premier League, the visit of fellow title challengers Manchester City at Anfield. Another victory, no matter the circumstances or manner of the win, would put Rodgers side firmly in the driving seat to end Liverpool's 24-year wait for a title.