You knew it was going to be a bad day when the commentators repeatedly brought up the fact that West Ham United haven’t won at Anfield since the 1960s. I wrote it straight into my notes as a jinx alert. It didn’t take long for Liverpool’s fans fears to come to fruition with West Ham United loanee Manuel Lanzini beating out young Joe Gomez to poach a quick goal in the first 3 minutes.
The Hammers were then able to play the game they wanted to away from home against one of the bigger clubs. Lead by new manager and former hard man Slaven Bilić, West Ham dropped deep and defended with 11 players after their early goal. Liverpool dominated the possession recording over 80% possession early on as they tried to break down the determined West Ham defense. Firmino struck the post with a thunderous left footed strike from distance but Liverpool’s attack was unable to create sustained pressure.
West Ham looked dangerous on the counter attack punishing Liverpool for loose possession with Lanzini’s speed a dangerous threat for Joe Gomez. Dimitri Payet continued his fine early season form with some delicious service from set pieces.
As the Anfield crowd become disgruntled with the poor play, Liverpool’s players began to play nervously with Milner forcing a few bad passes before Lovren made two errors in succession the second of which leading to a second chance goal by West Ham captain Mark Noble in the 29th minute.
There were little signs of hope from the Liverpool team who seemed collectively flat rather than being fatally flawed. They appeared to have the better players at times with the worse on field chemistry. They got frustrated and never really seemed to have a chance to win the game.
Their chances grew even slimmer as early season stand out Philippe Coutinho was sent off for his second bookable offense in the 53rd minute as he carelessly collided and was sent walking leaving the Reds short a man. The dismissal of Coutinho was disastrous for any shot of a result and may be extremely detrimental to Liverpool’s upcoming clashes and with Coutinho in top form its a huge blow for the Reds.
The numbers were evened in the 78th minute when Hammers Captain and goal scorer Mark Noble was dismissed for a late challenge. The straight Red card appeared to be quite harsh however Noble was already in the book and probably deserved a second yellow for the studs up, late tackle. The break was too little too late for Liverpool to make anything out of the game with the teams even at 10 players a piece.
In extra time West Ham added their final knockout blow as Diafra Sakho slotted home to finish off the Liverpool demolition.
Christian Benteke struggled to get involved in the game having very little sight at goal. His touches came deep in his own half and was left a step or two behind some passes trying to vault him through the rugged West Ham back line.
His attacking support in Brazilian duo Coutinho and Firmino were active but not effective. Their task was made much more difficult with the early conceded goal which forced them to have to break down a team defending deep. Coutinho threatened but was unable to make the final killer breakthrough before being sent off and forcing his team to plan for his absence. Firmino was okay but again failed to deliver on the promise that he has given the Liverpool faithful. His epic strike off the post was his only real impact.
Danny Ings did well off the bench and lifted the depleted energy of the Reds. While Ibe was again unimpressive.
With Henderson unfit again, Rodgers selected the midfield trio of Can, Milner and Lucas. Upon seeing the lineup I was optimistic that the three would combine well and give great work rate defensively allowing the front three to break quickly. Unfortunately all three of the mids were underwhelming. Although no glaring errors they were sloppy in possession leaving their back four vulnerable and having to hold the ball for too long. Lucas’ deft passing from the fixture against Arsenal the week before was missing and Liverpool played as if they were stuck in the ground. Can played possibly his worst game in a Reds shirt and Milner still leaves a lot of questions around if he is a true elite player that can carry a team. One notable pass from Milner trying to switch play to Clyne on the right wing ended up in the first row of the stands. With Gerrard’s long passing so close in the memory banks, Milner will have to raise his level of play if he wants to become the face of the Reds.
Liverpool had not conceded a goal thus far this season. Their back four had remained unaltered in all four of their EPL games this season. It took just 3 minutes for West Ham to expose the Liverpool defense when Lanzini beat out Joe Gomez to nab a goal. Mistakes from Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren were plentiful with the latter letting possession go ver easily on his defensive baseline which eventuated in Mark Noble scoring the second goal.
In the second half, Rodgers moved to a back 3 with Gomez, Skrtel and Lovren sitting deep and Clyne and Moreno as wing backs. The move facilitated a small improvement defensively but with Liverpool down 2-0 and none of the back 3 able to affect the attack the decision was questionable. Moreno was solid after coming on and may have an opportunity to get back in favour after his performance.
Mignolet was hard to fault but conceding 3 goals is never a good mark on any goalkeeper. Although he will have equity in contending his defenders were responsible.
Liverpool were unbeaten in their first 3 games, scoring just 2 goals and conceding none. Their performances have been lacklustre and several tactical decisions have left fans scratching their heads. Lucas was known to be on the outside before regaining his position and being labelled as Liverpools best defensive midfielder by Rodgers. He has spent big money on Lazar Markovic who was just sent out on loan with minimal opportunities as well as his dependence on young unproven players like Ibe and Joe Gomez. Stars have been under performing and his decision to play a back 3 when they were down 2-0 left a lot to be desired.
With the departures of their high profile players Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling, the speculation over Rodgers not being fit for the role will gain momentum this week. The eye test indicates that Liverpool will have a tough season and be far from their desire of a top four finish. They may scrape some points together but unless the team gel’s much better the grumbles will begin to get louder.
The return of Daniel Sturridge will leave some room for optimism but its all fading very fast. Liverpool and Rodgers will have to turn things around very soon.
The EPL will take a 2 week International break with play returning on September 12 with a blockbuster:
*Timezone – AEST