Premier League
West Ham United 2 Liverpool 0

Saturday, 2nd January 2016
by Gordon Thrower

Can we play you every week?

It's been a busy holiday period in these parts so an early kick-off was probably not quite what I needed. In the end I got as much of a lie-in as possible and decided to forego the usual pre-match diet cokes in favour of going straight to the ground.

Team news was that Carroll and Lanzini were given starts after their successful sub appearances against Southampton. There was a return for Cresswell whilst, after what seemed to have been an eternity but was in fact only two months, there was also a welcome return to the bench for Dimitri Payet. Team: Adrian, Tomkins, Cresswell, Collins, Ogbonna, Noble, Kouyate, Lanzini, Antonio, Valencia, Carroll.

It's hard to believe given what happened during the rest of the match but the first effort on goal came from the visitors as Ibe took advantage of the lack of a challenge going forward and pulled a low powerful shot no more than a foot wide of the post. However we settled a bit and Antonio had his own effort from distance go wide, albeit it wasn't quite as close as Ibe's effort had been. However it wasn't to be long before Antonio went one better.

It all started with a bit of a slip as Antonio gave the ball away. Moreno went down their left only for Antonio to win the ball back and play it forward to Tomkins who fed Kouyate who went forward. Valencia took over and crossed deep to the far post where Antonio, who seconds earlier had been making a tackle down by his own corner flag, got the better of Clyne to bury a header with less than ten minutes played.

The goal got our heads up and we might have doubled the lead a few minutes later, Cresswell's cross finding Carroll but the striker couldn't get enough on the header to seriously trouble Mignolet.

We went even closer when Lanzini found himself in space in the inside left channel. The tiny one's shot curled wickedly away from the flat-footed Mignolet, who was saved only by his post, with the ball rebounding to safety rather than to any of the Hammers in the penalty area. The ball came out to Cresswell who kept the attack alive, his near post cross finding Antonio, whose diving effort looped agonisingly wide of the far post.

Lanzini was having an influential half but became the first name in the book on 18 minutes, his shirt tug being allowed to pass as Liverpool broke for a rare attack, ref Madley correctly brandishing the yellow once the ball was dead having allowed the advantage. The subsequent corner was an odd one - it was played along the floor and given back straight away. Antonio broke away down the left and fed Valencia whose goal-bound shot was blocked by Moreno.

Lucas was next to be yellowed, having left a nasty foot in on Noble who required treatment following the challenge. Then, with about 24 minutes played (clearly they have no intention of repairing the clocks before we move) Can played the ball inside and Collins' slip saw the Ginger one to head the ball on the ground. He failed and Benteke looked to be clean through.

However, Tomkins was alert and put the ball out for a corner, his cause helped by the fact that a forward supposedly worth in excess of ?30m seemed to have all the urgency of one reluctantly on his way to a dental appointment involving root canal work without anaesthetic combined with a first touch of which a hungover Sunday league player would rightly be embarrassed.

Ibe's corner was over-hit but Moreno played the ball back in. Benteke's weak header flicked Carroll's hip on the way through but Adrian gathered the loose ball, taking a bash on the nose in the process from Firmino, a knock that required the stuffing of cotton wool up his nostril.

We were entering a spell which saw numerous appearances from the physio. With Kouyate having earlier required their services, more serious intervention was needed as Lanzini sat down on the halfway line. A brief consultation later and the tiny one was limping disconsolately off, which was a shame as he was having a decent game up to that point. The manager resisted the temptation to bring in Payet, with Obiang coming in to fill the gap in midfield.

With five minutes of normal time left before the break Antonio showed another facet to his game. We forced a throw in on the right and, it transpires that the no. 30 has a long throw in his armoury. It caused havoc and the ball came out to Cresswell whose low powerful shot was goal-bound but blocked by Clyne.

If we needed a reminder that one is not usually enough we got one before the break. Early in the five minutes of stoppage added due to the numerous calls on the medical team's time, Can found himself with a bit of space on the edge of the box and got in a shot which clipped the angle of post and bar. And that was yer lot for an entertaining half.

Klopp was clearly not best pleased with his team, sending them out with a good five minutes or so left of the interval, during which Upton Girlie took a break from giving me a hard time to remark that they appeared to have given the roof of the Chicken Run a bit of a brush up. Still time to look at the clocks then guys?

There were no changes in personnel on either side at the interval, though for a while it did appear that the visitors had brought on a twelfth man to add to the other eleven who seemed to be drifting about in the breeze. It transpired that a plastic carrier bag had blown on to the pitch. Eventually Mark Noble saved himself 5p by pocketing the article, but not before Liverpool thought about putting in a ?30m bid for it - it certainly looked more mobile than Benteke.

Understandably the visitors tried to press forward after the interval. Coutinho had a shot but his long distance effort sailed high into the STB. We continued to soak up pressure with little to concern us whist looking dangerous on the break. Carroll got on the end of an Antonio cross but was unable to get much on it. However, it was merely a practice run.

In the 10th minute of the second half we doubled the lead. Antonio combined with Noble and the skipper, not always noted for his crossing, played a magnificent ball into the box where Carroll was on hand to head home past his former employers in a moment that must have been as sweet for him as it was for us.

The visitors made their first changes on the hour when Lallana and Smith replaced Moreno and Firmino. Shortly after we made another change of our own, Payet replacing Valencia who had gotten through a lot of running without much joy. Payet got a resounding welcome, something he repaid with a sublime first touch that took a couple of opponents out of the game.

At the back Ginge was having a stormer of a game, winning header after header, getting blocks in and generally making it look like Benteke was the one worth 5p rather than the carrier bag. Payet was showing what we've missed, Carroll just failing to get a decent connection on the turn. Coutinho provided what little threat there was, Adrian having to come off his line sharpish to smother a possible chance.

We had some minor shenanigans. Ginge headed a dangerous looking free-kick over for a corner taken by Lallana. Adrian was impeded and a shot was taken which pinballed off a couple of players. Liverpool, as they have been doing for years, made a claim for a penalty on the grounds that they are Liverpool and therefore deserve a penalty irrespective of whether one is actually due. Adrian remonstrated with the ref on the not unreasonable grounds that the laws of the game ought really apply to Liverpool irrespective of the years of historical precedent suggesting that the opposite was the case. Handbags were drawn but not much else.

Meanwhile Noble had to be on hand to clear another corner from off the line whilst up the other end we were all left scratching our heads as another Carroll header was scrambled about before Mignolet pounced on the loose ball. And in amongst all the action Payet found the time to do a few of those trademark drag-backs that makes opponents look so silly.

With five left Jenkinson replaced Antonio who had worked his socks off at both ends of the pitch. Jenkinson slotted into right midfield in front of Tomkins. Ref Madley added three of stoppage which we saw out comfortably and a historic double was complete.

Younger readers, witnessing a victory over a very ordinary side, may not realise quite how sweet this particular double is. However, those of us who have spent our lives putting up with the BBC fawning over them whilst ignoring all the diving, dodgy transfer deals and "friendly" refereeing that gave them so many trophies over the years, not to mention the antics of their former skipper that seem to be covered by a "D" Notice, will have this silly grin on our mugs for a good few weeks yet. Smug? You bet!

In the meantime, those who like a good omen might like to reflect on the result of our last game of the season the last time we did the double over this lot: West Ham United 3 Preston North End 2. At Wembley.

And the Cup starts next week.

Happy New Year!

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Player Ratings

Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
No doubt they'll moan about having had a lot of possession. If so just ask them how many saves our 'keeper made. Dealt with everything in comfortable style.

James Tomkins
They thought they had done their homework in targeting him. However he stuck to his task well.

Aaron Cresswell
A welcome return - unlucky not to score when his piledriver was blocked by Clyne.

James Collins
A stormer. One slip apart he won headers, blocked shots and, for all I know, does a neat sideline in children's parties. Probably producing Benteke from an apparently empty pocket.

Angelo Ogbonna
The quieter of the two centre halves but a good and effective match nevertheless.

Cheikhou Kouyate
Put in some hard miles and often it was his long leg intercepting a possible dangerous pass.

Mark Noble
Another strong outing for the skipper. Rightly criticised in the past for the variable quality of his corners , his cross for Carroll's goal was superb.

Manuel Lanzini
Was looking good until his untimely premature exit.

Michail Antonio
Ginge got the sponsor's MOTM but this lad did it for me. Dangerous in attack, the goal was the icing on that particular cake. However, he tracked back and was often to be found getting a block in here, cutting out a dangerous cross there. He looked knackered at the end - he earned it. MOTM.

Andy Carroll
Ok his goal was a header. However, he held the ball up well and showed some nice touches on the deck as well. Beginning to get back to his best.

Enner Valencia
Compared with others he had a quiet one - got through a lot of running but didn't quite pose the attacking threat we know he can.


Pedro Obiang
(Replaced Lanzini) Came in for Lanzini and went about his business getting a foot in, tidying up and laying the ball off . Quiet but effective.

Dimitri Payet
(Replaced Valencia) Had the crowd on its feet with some of those wondrous pirouettes that makes opponents look so daft. So glad he's back.

Carl Jenkinson
(Replaced Antonio) Came on to give Tomkins some late protection as Antonio tired. Did that job.

Darren Randolph
Did not play.

Alex Song
Did not play.

Mauro Zarate
Did not play.

Nikica Jelavic
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo, James Tomkins, Aaron Cresswell, James Collins, Angelo Ogbonna, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Manuel Lanzini, Michail Antonio, Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia.

Goals: Michail Antonio 9 Andy Carroll 54                .

Booked: n/a           .

Sent off: None.

Liverpool: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: n/a.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Robert Madley.

Attendance: 34,977.

Man of the Match: Michail Antonio.