Liverpool slumped to successive Premier League defeats for the first since December after West Ham United came up with a 3-1 win over last season’s runners-up at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday. Goals from Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho pushed the Hammers to a two-goal advantage within the opening seven minutes but Raheem Sterling halved Liverpool’s deficit before Morgan Amalfitano sealed the tie in favour of the home-team in the dying stages.
Liverpool have now lost three of their first five games of the Premier League season which leaves the Reds in the bottom-half of the league with just six points to their name. On the other hand West Ham picked up three vital points, their first at home this season after two earlier losses to break into the top-half of the table.
Defensive frailties from set-piece situations have been Liverpool’s Achilles heel in recent times and West Ham needed just two minutes to capitalise on it. Stewart Downing’s drilled free-kick was superbly knocked down at far-post by James Tomkins into the path of Winston Reid allowing the unmarked New Zealand international to slot it home from close range.
Five minutes later Senegalese forward Diafra Sakho, new summer signing for the Hammers from French club Metz, doubled their lead in spectacular fashion. Collecting a pass outside the box from his skipper Mark Noble, Sakho dribbled into Liverpool’s penalty before audaciously chipping the ball over Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet into the far top-corner.
Seeing his team being run ragged by the West Ham attackers, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers decided to make an early tactical change to his team. French centre-half Mamadou Sakho came in for on-loan right-back Javi Manquillo on 22 minutes to change their formation into a more offensive 3-5-2 system.
Liverpool struck back when Balotelli delicately controlled a Jordan Henderson cross from the left and saw his shot blocked by Cresswell. The ball ricocheted to Sterling, who drilled a low first-time volley from the edge of the box into the far corner.
Despite clawing their way back into the game, the Liverpool midfielders failed to gain the upper hand over Alex Song and Mark Noble in the first 45 minutes. “First half was absolutely outstanding. I think, from our point of view, the way we got about our job in the first-half really took Liverpool by surprise,” West Ham manager Sam Allardyce told Sky Sports in his post-match interview.
In the second-half Liverpool had a lot more possession and penetration, but they still could not break down the resolute West Ham defence. On 88 minutes Stewart Downing pounced on Mamadou Sakho’s poor pass to set up second-half substitute Morgan Amalfitano for an easy finish to guarantee all three points for the East London club.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers conceded that his team were indeed second best.
“In fairness to West Ham, they came out and put us under pressure on the ball and we were just unable to play around that. Before we knew it, we were 2-0 down and from that point it was very difficult for us,” said Rodgers.
“But for us, the standard of our play was nowhere near what we would expect. Our passing and composure today was too short, there were too many long passes and overall our performance wasn’t at the required level,” he added.