30 January 2007

Liverpool 2-1 West Ham

A 2-1 win, and I’m not happy. Maybe that’s a good sign. They do say a hallmark of a good team is winning the game where you’re not at your best.

But I wasn’t pleased with the first half, wasn’t pleased with the refereeing, and wasn’t pleased that Liverpool was under the cosh for the last 15 minutes because the linesman couldn’t tell that Kepa Blanco was a yard offside.

Liverpool totally dominated possession in the first half, but was unable to utilize it. It was nice to see Rafa come out with three strikers, showing that Liverpool was going to attack despite being away from home, but it seemed as if Kuyt was playing too deep to be effective and Finnan (who I rarely, if ever, have complaints about) wasn’t doing enough to get the ball in the box from the right flank. But Liverpool wasn’t getting much from either flank, in contrast to the way they played at Watford. Liverpool also lost possession far too often, but with the way players (and the manager, try and find the video) were slipping all over the pitch, that could be expected.

Couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second half, though. West Ham came out from the half late, and was caught unaware before 15 seconds were off the clock. Liverpool kicked off, Alonso played a long pass to Crouch, who chested down and squared it for Kuyt to angle (from outside the box) into the back of the net. Exceptional technique on a gorgeous shot by Kuyt, and in the back of the net before the Hammers knew what hit them.

The second goal was even better. Seven minutes later, after another nice series of moves, Riise pulled it back for Crouch (happy birthday, Peter) to side-foot past Roy Carroll. Superb team goal, pretty one-touch passing, and another fine finish. West Ham looked flailing, and it looked done and dusted. It should have been done and dusted.

Liverpool could have had more, but after not getting the third, they seemed to let West Ham back in the game. The first fifteen minutes of the second half might have been the best Liverpool’s played away from home all season, but then it seemed they shifted into neutral. Curbishley’s striker substitutions, Cole and Harewood off for Blanco and Zamora also helped the Hammers.

But Blanco’s goal, on 77 minutes after some casual defending by Liverpool, should have never stood. Not by a long shot. In addition to the offside, Pennant was fouled on the change of possession. That would be the second goal (one of Baptista’s many in the Carling Cup as well) Martin Atkinson’s allowed that was clearly offside. Now that Uriah Rennie’s been demoted, I think I might have a new favorite ref.

The last 15 minutes saw Liverpool hang on for dear life, West Ham throw everything they could at the opposition’s goal, and the loss of all my fingernails. But the three points were secured, and Liverpool is 2 points behind Chelsea (with the Blues to play Blackburn tomorrow). Not to mention that both Arsenal and United lost at Upton Park. That will do.

MOM: Hyypia. Cleared absolutely everything in the air, even though I don’t think Carlton Cole ever moved faster than a light jog. Agger, Alonso and Reina also deserve mentions, all played very well. Pepe especially pulled off some nice saves.

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