Hammers defiant as defensive performance rewarded with a draw against Liverpool


West Ham 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League is now just  three points after a combative effort by West Ham saw the game finish 1-1 at the London Stadium. Goals from Sadio Mane and Michail Antonio were followed by heroic performances by Declan Rice, Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna to keep the league leaders at bay.

Adam Lallana returned the starting line-up for Liverpool after a prolonged period on the sidelines. Further injury issues forced Jurgen Klopp to begin with Joel Matip alongside Virgil Van Dijk in central defence. Pellegrini opted for Ryan Fredericks to return at right back while forward Marko Arnautovic suffered a foot injury, so Javier Hernandez started his first game of 2019.

Frome the first whistle the game was end-to-end. Liverpool held most of the ball but the West Ham forwards were unafraid to get at the backline of their opponents, with the support of Aaron Creswell, Hernandez went close to opening the scoring just three minutes in. A further chance for the Mexican came within the first 15 minutes, whilst Felipe Anderson put James Milner on the backfoot on several occasions.

The visitors always looked a threat going forward, however. Roberto Firmino caused issues for the West Ham backline with his elegant movement between the lines often finding himself in the left back position before ghosting through the West Ham midfield.

The Brazilian threatened with a left-footed effort and shortly after Mane opened the scoring. The Senegal international collected a James Milner cross before pivoting and sweeping the ball into the corner. Questions will be asked of the officials as Milner was in a clear offside position, but the linesman failed to see the infringement.

It was soon forgotten, however. Michail Antonio equalised with 28 minutes on the clock, much to the shock of the home support. A well worked free-kick routine saw the winger finish crisply into the far corner. Antonio now has four goals against Liverpool, more than any other Premier League team he has faced.

Rice went within inches of giving West Ham the lead when another set piece routine caught Liverpool off guard. Felipe Anderson whipped a cross in and Rice headed just wide from eight yards out, the academy graduate was kicking himself for not at least testing Alisson.

Anderson continued the second half as he ended the first as he tormented the Liverpool defence. His direct approach, alongside his pace and skill had Virgil van Dijk and company wary of the counter. The winger performed a flick around Joel Matip and the Cameroon defender pulled him down to earn the first yellow card of the game.

Mohamed Salah stung the gloves of Łukasz Fabiański on multiple occasions before the hour mark. The Egyptian cut in from the right hand side and trying to bend the ball in his trademark fashion into the far corner, but could not achieve the precision he desired.

The frustration forced Klopp to blink first and he introduced Xherdan Shaqiri at the expense of the returning Lallana. Firmino soon left the field after a laboured performance with Divock Origi taking to the field in his place.

Pellegrini then opted for fresh legs in midfield. Mark Noble made way soon after missing a glorious chance on the edge of the box. The West Ham captain had covered every blade of grass and his committed performance did not go unnoticed by the Hammers faithful. Andy Carroll was thrust into action in place of Hernandez, hoping to have a serious impact against his former club.

Liverpool dominated possession throughout the half, but the monumental effort by Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna proved too much for the Liverpool defence, as the 90 minute mark came and went, and Manchester City fans around the world were licking their lips at the prospect of being just three points behind the leaders.

Klopp will be incensed by his sides inability to make use of the ball, finishing the game with 73% possession and five attempts on target, but credit must go to Manueal Pellegrini and West Ham for their defensive display in thwarting the combination of Mane, Salah and Firmino.

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