Liverpool got back to winning ways at Anfield, as the first-half performance given by the Reds was more than enough to leave West Ham without any answers. The result moves Liverpool up to ninth in the Premier League, just three points off Bolton Wanderers in fourth place.
West Ham were poor on the day to say the least, getting the basics across the back four wrong as often as they did right. They had Rob Green to thank for keeping the score down as he made a stunning double save firstly, pushing Torres’ 20-yard smash onto the bar before tipping Christian Poulsen’s impressive effort around the opposite post.
Previous games have seen sections of the Liverpool support call for the name of Dalglish as the Reds failed to produce little of imagination to spur on their fans, but Saturday at Anfield saw West Ham take over that mantle. The name of Paolo Di Canio was chanted as another scramble ensued in their penalty box.
A greatly improved performance from Glen Johnson saw him open the scoring as a corner came in and his low shot on the spin fired Liverpool in front. Roy Hodgson was quick to praise the performance of the England full-back after the game as he told the postmatch press conference:
“He was very good. I think he profited from the fact he’s been obliged to undergo an enforced rest due to the injury. It’s taken a while for him to get over it, but he’s been fit all week and has trained.
“I thought he was full of running, enthusiasm and energy, and furthermore he scored a very important goal. The first goal in a game like this is always the important one, and Glen got it.
“Glen Johnson is a top-class player, we all know that, and it was nice to see him play so well today and show the fans how well he can play.”
While Johnson opened the scoring for Liverpool, fellow full-back Paul Konchesky supplied the assist for Maxi Rodriguez’s header on 38 minutes, which effectively wrapped up the game before half time.
In between, Dirk Kuyt received the opportunity in the absence of Steven Gerrard to increase the Reds lead to 2-0 from the spot after Danny Gabiddon handled Torres' effort towards the edge of the box. The energetic Dutchman happily put the spot kick away, raising a salute to his applauding captain in the stands during his celebrations.
Hodgson expressed his satisfaction at the work being done by his midfield to allow the full-backs more space coming forward—a width Liverpool has suffered from not naturally having since the season kicked off. At a venue at which West Ham hadn’t won since 1963, the Hammers departed L4 making no further ground on that record, just an increase of pressure on the future of Avram Grant.
“I thought our movement down the sides throughout the game was very problematic for West Ham and, as I said, we scored two goals from it and could have scored more because we got ourselves into good positions.”
On the day, the much maligned Christian Poulsen, so often and deservedly so at the end of harsh criticism since his arrival at Anfield from Juventus in the summer, took a small step on the road to redeeming himself, showing a little more invention and less reactive play.
Despite his questionable purchase in many ways, no pleasure should be taken from seeing any Liverpool player struggle to the level that he has. He's a player in no way of the mould or level of his captain, but one that certainly has more to offer than has been seen by the Kop faithful.
With Lucas Leiva also serving a one-match suspension, the effective Raul Meireles and Poulsen formed the central partnership in the side, one that Hodgson was more than happy to praise.
“Christian is a good player. As I’ve said before, if you can pay a price for being too honest, I think he may have done that in one or two of the earlier games when the team wasn’t playing well and he’s tried to do perhaps a little bit too much. But I always knew he is a very good footballer and today in a good team he showed what a good player he is.
“Raul was very good. The important thing for us is to get Raul Meireles on the ball, and he’d have got on the ball today in whatever position he played in midfield because we passed the ball quite well and got the ball into the midfield players.
“It was important to win and I thought we did it with some style. As I said yesterday, I think there are going to be lots of situations in the coming months where momentum will be gained and lost by teams because the league is such that there are no games where you can safely predict the result.”
Hodgson may have commented that he only started to relax with 10 minutes to go and 3-0 up, but in truth this was more the words of professionalism. On that kind of performance, West Ham may have played another 90 minutes and not pulled three goals back.
As much as West Ham will rue the showing they provided their fans at Anfield, it is true that you can only beat what is put in front of you and Liverpool did that with ease in the first half. The same energy levels were just not required after the break.
Liverpool now moves on to face Spurs at White Hart Lane, a game that on paper is a completely different animal for them to face.
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