Premier League
West Ham United 0 Liverpool 2

Wednesday, 29th January 2020
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham took a 2-0 home defeat this evening to Liverpool with a performance that was more heartening than the scoreline might suggest.

A Mohamed Salah penalty and an Oxlade-Chamberlain breakaway, a goal in either half, were enough to give the visitors a much predicted victory.

On a night where new signing Tomas Soucek was revealed to the West Ham fans and young Jeremy Ngakia became another academy graduate to make his debut for the club, David Moyes can come away with more positives than he might have expected from a visit by the runaway league leaders.


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New signing: Tomas Soucek


Whilst some may criticise what appeared a quite negative initial approach to the game, the side showed discipline, a counter attacking threat and dealt with most of what Liverpool had to offer quite comfortably.

It was mistakes that cost them, Liverpool sharper than any team in punishing such occurrences and Moyes still working with a squad missing key players and prone to the kind of errors that can turn a game.

The first half was all about containment, the Hammers sitting with a real back five and choosing the odd moment to try and move out as a unit to offer some threat, a plan that looked much better this evening than the surrender against Leicester a week ago.

It limited the visitors to very little in the way of chances. The biggest threat came from Robertson, who attacked the early nerves of debutant Ngakia and will feel at least one of his forays forward should have brought reward.

An early chance as he evaded the young full back was made difficult by the presence of Fabianski, who flew out to meet the Scot after he was played into the six yard box. The dink over the goalkeeper was clever, but the ball rolled wide of goal before it was cleared.

Minutes later, Robertson was round the back again, wide on the left, and his ball across the face of the goal needed only a touch as it slid between goalkeeper and defence. Luckily for West Ham, no one was on hand to provide it.

These were flashes of danger that were rare in an otherwise disciplined defensive display. Masuaku was bringing West Ham forward when he saw any space to run into, Ngakia growing in confidence as the half wore on. The side created pressure from these flanks, but never really found the quality of pass to unduly worry Liverpool.

With hope growing in the stadium that a game might actually be contested, Liverpool struck.

Turning defence into attack, Alexander-Arnold pushed forward and crossed from the right to Firmino. His touch took him to the byline, where he came together with Ogbonna then turned back towards goal. He was allowed far too much space to pick a pass to Origi, whose control lost Ngakia and gave him an opening from six yards out.

A desperate lunge from Diop was enough to stop his shot, but not to take the ball, hauling Origi down and giving away a clear penalty. Replays looked to see if Firmino handled it, VAR quickly deciding he hadn't when the pictures seemed inconclusive, and Mo Salah lashed the penalty into the bottom corner with ten minutes of the half remaining.

It changed little, both sides settling back into their previous rhythm as the half drifted and drew to a close, the only notable moment a ridiculous booking to Mark Noble after cleanly tackling Origi. The striker threw himself dramatically to the floor and fooled the consistently awful Jonathan Moss, a referee so often off the pace that it would be too kind to say he was biased.


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Referee Moss gave most 50/50s Liverpool's way


Coming back out, neither side made changes. West Ham looked to play a touch more positively, and were nearly rewarded early on.

Haller did well to hold the ball up and fed Rice, who pushed it wide to the right and curled in a perfect cross to the feet of Lanzini. The Argentine, still clearly struggling for form, snatched at it and his tame effort went straight to Alisson. The space he had and the position he was in deserved better.

Highlighting the danger of West Ham's need to score, Liverpool countered immediately and were stopped only by the brilliance of the returning Fabianski. Deflecting into his feet in the box, Firmino swivelled and shot from around eight yards. The effort was struck well and low, but Fabianski managed to better it, pushing it wide instantly with the reflexes that make him so vital to this team.

Two minutes later, the warning shot had not been heeded.

A West Ham corner came out to Ngakia. The cross was cleared and bouncing towards Noble and Masuaku. What each man did next is really hard to understand, as Noble waited until the last second to just let a bouncing ball go, Masuaku then lost the aerial bout with Salah, deciding against jumping or even really challenging for the ball. It was as baffling as it was infuriating.

The Egyptian tried to break through them, his touch deflecting off Masuaku and Noble before Henderson's pass over the top of both men left Ngakia on his own as Firmino, Salah and Oxlade-Chamberlain faced him just inside his half.

Salah found the perfect pass, rolling Oxlade-Chamberlain in on goal. The midfielder shrugged off Lanzini and then passed it beyond Fabianski for his third goal in three games against West Ham, a 2-0 lead and another example of Liverpool scoring on the break from a West Ham corner (it seems to happen every year at the London Stadium).

It added a sense of inevitability to proceedings, and opened up the possibility of the embarrassment many expected as the game begun, but West Ham did not shrink, and that is to their credit.

In fact, they will feel aggrieved not to have scored once or even twice. They had the chances.

First Snodgrass, played in after Lanzini pounced on a loose Wijnaldum pass. The Scot took it first time, a little scuffed, but forced an excellent save from Alisson in the Liverpool goal.

Moments later, the winger's quite magnificent cross was met on the six yard line by Ogbonna. Meeting it off-balance, he contrived to head it nowhere near goal and out for goal kick when he should have scored.


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One of West Ham's better players on the night


It was Rice next, taking the ball off a Liverpool foot 25 yards from goal and driving forward through the defence and smashing a shot goalwards, his effort too close to Alisson but nearly guided in by a very fortunate Alexander-Arnold, who somehow volleyed the rebound against his own post.

Salah reminded everyone of the threat that could burst into life, striking the post with a first time shot outside the area that again came from a quick Liverpool move forward, but Liverpool had begun to manage the game to a close and preserve some energy.

There was still time for another excellent Alisson save, Rice meeting another fantastic Snodgrass freekick, heading just inside the box and forcing the goalkeeper full stretch back and to his right.

It stayed 2-0, Liverpool now unbeaten in 41 Premier League games, and 19 points clear at the top of the table, a long way from West Ham and anyone else for that matter.

In contrast, West Ham have won six out of 24 matches this season, and just three home matches from the 12 they've played, with seven defeats.

It was a defeat that offered some positives, the side offering more goal threat than any game since the win over Bournemouth in Moyes's first game.

Equally, the approach drew criticism from some fans and pundits, who saw the defensive first half as a surrender to defeat.

How to argue that depends on your view of this team. Shorn of Antonio and Anderson, with an academy graduate playing his debut, the side was disciplined and contained. They are clearly stripped of confidence too, with back-to-back defeats, a loss to a weakened West Brom side in the FA Cup. There were expectations that this could be a thrashing, and there is clearly no way this West Ham side could go toe-to-toe with Klopp's Liverpool.

Chances for Rice, Ogbonna, Snodgrass and Lanzini were a mile away from the performance against West Brom, and still much better than Leicester, Everton or Sheffield United.

It will mean little if the threat is meek once more against Brighton this Saturday, a game that feels must-win amidst a terrible run of fixtures and results. Moyes and his side stayed out of the relegation places tonight, with better goal difference by one and two goals to Bournemouth and Watford respectively. A win this weekend hauls them a point above Brighton with away games at Manchester City and Liverpool to follow.

Tonight didn't feel damning, and the lift of some new faces means the hope still remains, but Saturday could burst that bubble swiftly and painfully.


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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Always a welcome sight in the West Ham goal, he was beaten by two goals he could really do little about, and made two fantastic saves. He was also calm in collecting the ball and the hope is that calmness exudes from him.


Jeremy Ngakia
A shaky start, he lost Robertson twice in the first half to nearly damaging effect, but the 19-year-old grew into the game, made good forays forward and was not a weak link. His inexperience was clear, but he can be proud of how he acquitted himself against arguably the best team in the world.


Aaron Cresswell
Relatively solid, although it felt like his inside full back role was never used in an attacking sense, so could probably have been done by a better all-round defender. However, he did his job defensively and should only really be disappointed with his forward passing.


Issa Diop
In some games, it only takes one mistake to ruin the best laid plans. Diop may feel he had to make the desperate challenge that gave the penalty away, but he made it poorly and gave away the penalty. Looked a little more assured than recent weeks though, he seems to benefit from his confidence in Fabianski behind him.


Angelo Ogbonna
It is fair to say he and Diop played well except for the moment they didn't, and the moment they didn't probably cost the side the game. Firmino was given too much time and space to do as he pleased in the box for the build to the penalty. Ogbonna should have done more. He was otherwise unflustered by the Liverpool forward line and will need that resolve in the next few months.


Declan Rice
Probably West Ham's best player. His defensive performance was strong without being spectacular, but it was his attacking effort that caught the eye. His drive from midfield and powerful shot was unlike anything our midfield has offered this season, an energy that is missing and the kind of thing we need to survive. His header deserved a goal too, but Alisson was exceptional in his save.


Mark Noble
Ineffective in key areas today, not really getting to the pace of the midfield and then part of the calamity of the second goal. He shows for the ball and made the most passes, Noble will never hide, but the quality wasn't there.


Arthur Masuaku
The second Liverpool goal was appalling defending by Masuaku, just weak football. But, and it really should be noted aside the usual anger with Masuaku's inconsistent defending, he was the man who drove West Ham forward the most, had the most touches, played well in tight areas and the only man who could run at Liverpool and worry them. He is going to be vital, at least without Antonio and Anderson.


Robert Snodgrass
Snodgrass is a slight conundrum. He hasn't the pace to beat players and his passing can be lacking. But he has the energy to support attacks, gets into decent areas and, most vitally, his set pieces create clear chances.


Manuel Lanzini
Again, there were parts of his work that showed signs of encouragement. He kept the ball well, worked in tight spaces, and his pounce on Wijnaldum's loose pass was the energy up front that will needed to win games, setting up Snodgrass for West Ham's best chance from open play. His best under Moyes before was when he was close to the striker, so a system where he isn't defender first, attacker later will be key.


Sebastien Haller
A thankless task, for the most part. He was smart enough to try move towards Gomez and win those duels, because Van Dijk is too fast and strong for him to bully or outmanoeuvre. He hasn't the pace to make things on his own, whereas an Antonio today might have forced problems with his running in behind.



Substitutes

Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Lanzini) People may want him to start over Manu, but here he made four passes in 25 minutes, two of those unsuccessful, with eight touches overall. Tells the story of how little impact he had.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.


Goncalo Cardoso
Did not play.


Pablo Zabaleta
Did not play.


Carlos Sanchez
Did not play.


Albian Ajeti
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Jeremy Ngakia, Aaron Cresswell , Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Arthur Masuaku, Robert Snodgrass , Manuel Lanzini, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: None.

Booked: Issa Diop 0 Mark Noble 0        .

Sent off: None.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Keita 78), Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Jones 86), Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Origi (Fabinho 69).

Subs not used: Adrian, Matip, Lovren, Minamino.

Goals: Salah (35 pen), Oxlade-Chamberlain (52).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Jonathan Moss.

Attendance: 59,959.

Man of the Match: Declan Rice.