24 February 2018

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham

Can 29'
Salah 51'
Firmino 57'
Antonio 59'
Mané 77'

*Insert usual superlatives about Liverpool's front three here*

This is the sixth time this season that Salah, Firmino, and Mané all score in the same match.

Salah has 31 goals and nine assists in all competitions. Firmino has 22 goals and 10 assists. Mané has 13 goals and seven assists. Combined, those three have scored 66 of Liverpool's 103 goals so far this season. It is still February.

This is the 20th time this season that Liverpool have scored three or more goals. In 40 matches. Half the time, we're getting at least three goals. 11 of those 20, we've gotten even more.

And Liverpool have now scored four goals in three consecutive matches against West Ham. You've need to go back to Luis Suarez at his Norwich-slaying best in 2012-13, 2013-14 since that's happened.

This is all sorts of bananas. And it's been egregiously fun more often than not. And it's somehow getting progressively better, as if that's even possible.

Yeah, it took a while for the flood gates to open. Salah hits the post within three minutes. Adrian saves van Dijk's header from a corner a couple of minutes later. It gets a little ragged. West Ham actually start to attack, and Arnautovic forces an excellent save from Karius on the counter, an audacious chip from distance tipped onto the crossbar.

But then, as at Brighton in December, Liverpool finally gets a set play to open the scoring. As at Brighton, it's a corner from the right side. As at Brighton, it's Emre Can, a powerful header over Evra from Salah's cross. And as at Brighton, Liverpool would then go on to get a few more goals.

Yeah, Liverpool made us nervous on a few occasions. The aforementioned Arnautovic chance, then another from outside the box saved by Karius just before halftime. Antonio pulling one back, seconds after coming off the bench, Emre Can running into Kouyate in the center circle, Kouyate springing the counter, Antonio finishing from a wide angle.

Liverpool were 3-0 up by the point. Salah got the second after Oxlade-Chamberlain's strong run through midfield before nutmegging Cresswell. Firmino got the third after Can took the ball from Mario on a hoofed goal kick and immediately passed over the top, with Firmino around Adrian and tapping in another no-look finish.

Both come from direct play – a one-two, then run through midfield; pressing to win back possession then a quick pass over the top. Both are Liverpool at its best with a lead, finished off by players in indescribable form.

We should not be nervous at 3-0. But Liverpool relax immediately after getting what looks a safe lead, and not for the first time. Can's dispossessed, West Ham are away, and we start wondering if Liverpool are gonna throw away a three-goal lead for the second time this season. All it takes is one more West Ham goal and heads are gone and heads are on pikes.

But that would not happen, as when Liverpool conceded against Hoffenheim, at Leicester, at West Ham, at Brighton, etc etc etc. Yes, Liverpool still throw away leads more often than we'd like, but Liverpool are also capable of protecting them. Usually by scoring more goals. Liverpool immediately have more chances –- Adrian saves shots from Salah, Firmino, and Mané, Mané hits the post when it looked easier to score – but more importantly, Liverpool have the ball. Liverpool don't allow chances because Liverpool don't allow West Ham the ball, coolly passing around with West Ham trying like hell to regain possession, only to eventually tire.

Then Liverpool kill the game. Again playing around at the back – which always makes us nervous! – but successfully drawing West Ham out, then Robertson to Milner to Firmino to Robertson to Mané, with the out wide, low cross, run into the six-yard box finally coming off.

And we're done here. Everybody makes subs. Liverpool have a couple more half-chances. There are no more goals, for either side. Only Liverpool goes home happy.

And, at least until tomorrow, Liverpool are going home in second place. With just ten games left to play.

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