A late goal from Liverpool fullback Glen Johnson wasn’t enough to stave the tide as West Ham United defeated the Reds 3-1 at Boleyn Ground this morning. The match marked German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger's return from a prolonged injury.
Hammers’ morale champion Scott Parker opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a goal assisted by the rejuvenated Hitzlsperger.
Carlton Cole put the final nail in Liverpool’s coffin in the 91st minute thanks to an assist from American midfielder Jonathan Spector. It was Cole’s second goal in as many matches after a seven game EPL drought for the striker.
West Ham’s new Senegalese sensation Demba Ba found the back of the net just before half time with an assist from fellow transfer signing Gary O'Neil. It was Ba’s third goal in two matches.
For its part, Liverpool looked a shell of the team it has been since finding new life under King Kenny. Raul Mereiles, a shinning light of the squad oft touted as the best transfer singing of the season, was so lost on the pitch he was taken off after 48 minutes.
It was a poor display from a side that has show phenomenal resilience this season.
The Hammers played spirited football all-around. From the return of Hitzlsperger to the integration of transfer signings Ba, O’Neil and Bridge into the side, West Ham looked more like an EPL team today than it did at any point throughout the fall.
The three points the Hammers took from today’s match moved the team into 18th place on 28 points—West Ham now sits at the very top of the relegation battle.
While this may not look like much from the outside, it is the first time this season that the Hammers have not been in either 19th or 20th place.
Two important relegation matches took place yesterday—Wolves took on Blackpool and Wigan fought Manchester United. Interestingly, both games ended in a 4-0 score line, the former to the advantage of Wolves, the latter to the advantage of United.
This puts Wigan in dead last on 28 points. West Bromwich Albion sit 19th on 28 points and face Stoke City, currently 11th in the table, tomorrow. West Ham sit top of the relegation battle and Wolves one above the Hammers in 17th. Both sides have 28 points.
It’s a strange world we live in when every EPL team whose name begins with a “W” sits on 28 points and occupy the bottom four places in the league table. It's only a goal difference that separates these teams.
Even if these teams continue in much the same manner, there is new hope for West Ham in the relegation battle—if Ba, Cole and the rest of the Hammers can continue this prolific goalscoring, the side may well be able to avoid relegation on goal difference.
If it comes to that.