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Sunday, 2nd February 2003

West Ham United 0
Liverpool 3

by Gordon Thrower

Normal service resumed ...

Well I picked a right one to treat my youngest brother Geoff (after Sir Geoff) and Dad to. Bruv had spent the weekend at Gnome Towers and the match ticket was his birthday present so we made a somewhat circuitous route to the Boleyn to pick up Dad. My Mum is very superstitious so the rest of us in the family notice things like the numbers of magpies. Dad spotted two and announced that this signified a West Ham win. If ever we needed ammunition to debunk that particular theory today's match was it. Earlier on the tube a very attractive young lady offered Dad a seat. Some of you will have met Dad and will be aware that he does not look at all old so Geoff and I were highly amused at this turn of events.

Sadly this was about the last amusing thing to happen all afternoon. Team news was that Sinclair was to start in place of Lomas who was suspended for having been in the same penalty area as Pires. There was no place in the squad for Cisse who would have appeared to be the natural replacement for Lomas. Dailly came in for Pearce who presumably was absent from the 16 through injury. Ferdinand was preferred up front to Kanoute.

Our run (!) of home form lasted, well minutes. Riise put over a free kick that eluded everyone to give an indication of things to come. A few minutes later Liverpool gained a corner on the same side. Repka went AWOL to give Baros a free header to put us one down. It only took two minutes for Liverpool to go further ahead. Another corner on the same side was punched out by James. DiCanio failed to gather the loose ball ad Gerrard thumped a superb drive into the corner. That was basically it. A more adventurous side than Liverpool might have gone on to tear us apart and run up a cricket score. However the current Liverpool side are reminiscent of the Arsenal of the 70's and they seemed content spend the remainder of the half watching Ferdinand and DiCanio fall into their offside trap time and time again.

Pre-match I had expressed my fears about starting with Ferdinand. In previous matches we had concentrated on thumping it high up to him in the hope he might flick it on. As a result the likes of Carrick and Cole were effectively by-passed. The same happened today. Ferdinand either lost out in the air or was given offside (sometimes whether he was or not). Noticeably, the few, well I hesitate to use the word "chances" but you know what I mean, came from when we tried to play football. Bowyer, DiCanio and Ferdinand combined well to put Carrick in with a shooting opportunity. Carrick's lobbed shot was gathered easily enough by Dudek. However, Carrick had been clipped just before the shot to leave us with a free-kick 18 yards out. Unfortunately Bowyer's effort sailed tamely over.

Up the other end a Gerrard shot was parried by James who failed to gather. Smicer picked up the loose ball but was thankfully forced wide before getting the chance to shoot. The only other incident of note came when, following a good run down the right, Johnson crossed. Had Bowyer's attempted scissor kick connected we would have been looking at a potential goal of the season. As it was Bowyer failed to connect and the ball sailed harmlessly away.

The second half commenced with more of the same. Aimless long balls, offsides, the usual. On 55 minutes Roeder finally twigged what 35,000 plus had worked out ages ago and removed Ferdinand in favour of the infinitely more mobile Kanoute. Shortly after Winterburn was replaced by debutant Brevett. For a few minutes we started playing. Kanoute held the ball up well and caused problems in the Liverpool defence. One glorious move that had started with good work from Johnson and had flowed through Sinclair, Cole, Kanoute and DiCanio ended up with the soon-to-be French international shooting over. Another good run into the box might have ended with a penalty as Kanoute appeared to be clipped from behind. However nothing was forthcoming from the ref.

You always feel that there might be a chance at 2-0. So the killer goal to make it 3-0 effectively ended all thoughts of a comeback. The way the goal came about though was annoying. A corner from our right appeared to most observers to be well out of play as Hyppia headed it back in. As James gathered the ball he appeared to be clattered by a Heskey challenge. Actually let's not mince words here, it was a foul. Rookie referee Messias failed to spot either the goal kick or the foul and the game, not that it had ever been much of a contest, was effectively over.

The ineffective Sinclair was immediately replaced by Defoe. Now I know that the lad is good but saving us from 3-0 down? Come on Mr Roeder surely you're having a laugh. As it happened very little of note occurred in the remaining 23 minutes. Kanoute found DiCanio out on the left but, in keeping with the general off-day that too many players were having, Paolo only found Dudek when he really ought to have scored. Joey picked up a sadly deserved booking and that was it. Full time came and little Bruv provided the consolation hug and Dad provided the consolation pint.

At the end of the day we simply had too many players having off days. Where there had been fight and endeavour on Wednesday night there was nothing, the only exceptions to this being Johnson and Kanoute. Johnson did make mistakes but they were largely the result of perhaps trying too hard whilst Kanoute looked to have done well enough to perhaps justify a start next time out. Other than that there was nothing to take away from this match. The transfer window has closed and, unless we can sort things out soon we'll be down and out. If that happens, by the time we get back up I'll be the one getting offered a seat on the tube.



Player Ratings

David James (4) It seems daft to say this in a 3-0 defeat but he wasn't really tested by Liverpool. However I felt he failed to command the box and might have got better contact on the punch for their second.

Glen Johnson (7) Continues to impress. Doesn't look out of place - and I mean that in a complimentary manner.

Nigel Winterburn (5) Tried hard but the advancing years are catching up with him. I expect Brevett will probably start the majority of the remaining matches.

Tomas Repka (6) Disappeared for the first goal but concentrated on playing football and continues to look better for doing so.

Christian Dailly (5) Doesn't inspire confidence at the moment. Still looking a bit shell-shocked after Old Trafford perhaps.

Lee Bowyer (4) Didn't really turn up. Failed to make much of an impression save for the poor free kick and attempted scissors kick.

Michael Carrick (5) Largely by-passed by the insane long ball tactic in the first half. Tried to make an impression in the second but failed to receive much support from around him.

Joe Cole (4) Joey's poorest game for a long while. The odd flick apart he seemed completely out of sorts.

Trevor Sinclair (3) Tricky has been off the boil for a long while but even by his recent low standards he had a bad day.

Paolo Di Canio (4) Some days Paolo can inspire all around him to new heights simply by his presence. This was not one of those days. Could have scored. Should have scored. Didn't.

Les Ferdinand (3) Why we started with Ferdinand when the bulk of our better football against Blackburn came once he'd been substituted escapes me. Didn't win much in the air and failed to use the ball on the ground.

Substitues

Frederic Kanoute (7) I know opinions are divided here but I thought that what little we produced today came as a result of Fredi's efforts. If fit he ought to start, if only because we play through midfield when he's on the pitch.

Rufus Brevett (5) An ok half hour or so. Nothing more or less.

Jermain Defoe (4) Hard not to feel sorry for Jermain. Brought on to save a game that effectively ended before he came on. Can hardly be blamed for failing to do so.

Referee

M Messias (5) Quite what he was thinking over the last goal only he knows.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Johnson, Repka, Dailly, Winterburn (Brevett 59), Bowyer, Carrick, Cole, Sinclair (Defoe 68), Les Ferdinand (Kanoute 55), Di Canio.

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Schemmel.

Liverpool: Dudek, Carragher, Hyypia, Henchoz, Riise, Smicer (Cheyrou 79), Diouf, Murphy (Hamann 82), Gerrard, Heskey, Baros (Owen 72).

Subs not used: Arphexad, Traore.

Goals: Baros (7), Gerrard (9), Heskey (67)

Booked: Cole.

Attendance: 35,033.

Referee: Alan Wiley.

KUMB Man of the Match: Glen Johnson.

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