Liverpool vs. West Ham: Winners and Losers from Premier League Game
Liverpool continued their transformative January by beating Champions League pretenders West Ham United 2-0 at Anfield.
Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock with a calm finish following a beautiful Philippe Coutinho through ball, and Daniel Sturridge graced his return with a goal to seal the result.
Here, B/R picks its winners and losers from the game.
Honourable Mention (loser): NBC co-commentator Tony Gale repetitively referenced West Ham's midfield diamond shape despite the team starting and playing throughout in a 4-2-3-1 (until being reduced to 10 men). At no point in the game did the Hammers play in a diamond midfield.
Winner: Daniel Sturridge, Who Returned with a Goal
Daniel Sturridge made his long-awaited return to action on Saturday, entering the fray late in the second half and kicking his first competitive balls for five excruciating months.
He crowned the fleeting appearance with a lovely goal, too, reminding us of his incredible movement, pace, touch and accuracy when shooting. He made the same run twice in a row, with the second resulting in Liverpool's second goal. Too hot to handle; the central defender could do nothing to stop it.
Sturridge scored on his return from injury last season too. He’s really good at just picking up the pace straight away.— James Dutton (@jrgdutton) January 31, 2015
Raheem Sterling has done admirably filling in, but defenders simply aren't as scared of him as they are of the Sturridge.
Loser: Big Sam Allardyce's Physio Room, Which Continues to Fill Up
West Ham came into the game with defenders Carl Jenkinson, James Tomkins, Joey O'Brien and James Collins doubtful. The latter two played, but Collins was substituted off in the second half due to a muscle problem picked up in the first period.
That left Winston Reid as the only recognised central defender on the pitch (O'Brien switched inside), but shortly after he picked up a knock and walked straight down the tunnel too. With 10 men (all subs used) and a central defensive pairing of O'Brien and midfielder Alex Song, the Hammers crawled to the end of this game and breathed a sigh of relief when the final whistle sounded.
Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate missed the squad due to injury, and Andy Carroll was also taken off with an ankle complaint. An absolute fitness nightmare for the Irons.
Winner: Raheem Sterling, Who Was Electric
Before Daniel Sturridge's introduction to lift the crowd, Raheem Sterling carried the torch up front and made several remarkable runs, twisting West Ham's defenders inside-out.
He played nominally as a striker but was given license to drift left and right, and in the first half, he spent 20 minutes torturing Joey O'Brien and creating chances from that flank. In the second half, he continued to dazzle, with one run on the right in particular seeing three Hammers men beaten before an accurate cross was sliced horribly wide by Alberto Moreno.
His goal was the opener, in some ways the decider and most certainly the icing on the cake.
Loser: Adam Lallana, Who Flunked a Big Chance
Every chance Adam Lallana gets in the starting XI will be heavily scrutinised, but this was an especially big opportunity for him in the absence of Steven Gerrard and before Daniel Sturridge returned.
He didn't take it. In fact, he flunked it.
The Englishman's failure to control a football, tight space or not, in conjunction with his serial wasting of strong positions and breaking down of attacks, lands Lallana in the losers column here. Liverpool didn't do too much wrong as a team, but Lallana was the most disappointing part of the day.
Winner: Philippe Coutinho, Who Excelled Once Again
As we've come to expect, Philippe Coutinho put in another sensational performance for Liverpool on Saturday afternoon. His two-assist day was applauded by the entirety of Anfield as he came off late for a breather.
The Reds lacked a killer touch in the first half—where have you heard that before?—but there was no shortage of chances and avenues being created by this little Brazilian genius. His dinked pass into Raheem Sterling's path for the first goal was S-U-B-L-I-M-E.
He also set up Daniel Sturridge's goal with an accurate ball into a tight channel. Coutinho is undroppable at present and might be Liverpool's Player of the Month for January.