It wasn’t all that long ago that Liverpool were languishing mid-table and looking almost certain to fall short in the race for Champions League football, but as we creep towards the business end of the season, the Reds have leapfrogged bitter rivals Manchester United in to second place after sweeping aside West Ham United at Anfield.
You’d never know that a ten day break separated the 5-0 victory over FC Porto and the meeting with the Hammers — Jurgen Klopp’s side were relentless, pressing from the front and pinning back their visitors with the kind of high-intensity football that’s now synonymous with the Merseysiders. That team that were so resoundingly beaten by Spurs back in October is now well and truly gone; the turnaround, like hitting the jackpot at the Sbobet Online Casino, has been just as exciting as it is rewarding.
Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk both went close during a frantic opening, but it was the Hammers who were almost on the board first as Liverpool ‘keeper Loris Karius only just got fingers on Mark Arnautovic’s audacious lob to tip it on to the bar. Nerves settled, it was one German saving goals and another scoring them as Emre Can beat United débutante Patrice Evra in the air to nod a straight off the training ground header home and gave the hosts a well deserved lead just before the half-hour mark.
That that was the Reds 100th goal this season is absolutely no surprise. Second to only run-away leaders Manchester City in both points and goals, the Anfield outfit would add to that impressive tally before the day was over. Salah, scoring for his sixth match on the hop, made the most of a slick bit of passing from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain before sliding home a low finish and Roberto Firmino, putting in a typically hard working shift, got himself on the score-sheet by capitalizing on a mistake from West Ham shot-stopper Adrian.
The visitors were handed a glimmer of hope when substitute Michail Antonio added to his rather impressive record of scoring against Liverpool, but Sadio Mane — who had hit the post earlier — wrapped things up with a fine finish, lifting a picture perfect Andy Robertson cross over the ‘keeper to complete the rout.
“I would have taken a 1-0 win today – ugly, dirty, West Ham four times [off the] post and Loris Karius 20 saves or whatever, I would have taken it because we need the points,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp with a smile. “Of course, now it is nice because we deserved these three points, we played well and could keep this kind of little run [going] with a few nice results,” added the German manager, going on to stress that beating the Hammers wasn’t quite as easy as it might have appeared. “They had a difficult situation and they sorted it, they are in a good way, so to play a game like we did today is really not [to be taken] for granted. I’m really happy we could do it.”
And, we’re really happy as well. The points, of course, are important, but if nothing more, providing former Everton and short-lived Manchester United boss David Moyes an unhappy return to Anfield is satisfying in and of itself.
Unfortunately, ruining the Scotsman’s day won’t get you a Champions League spot for next season, so I suppose Klopp and his insistence that the three-points is the most important thing is probably what’s important here. Keeping up both the pace and the pressure, we’re well and truly in this race — and, should United drop points, we’ll be commanding it. Best of the rest isn’t the best, but I’ll take it for now.