West Ham 0
For what seemed like the first time in awhile, Brendan Rodgers opted to keep the same eleven for two consecutive matches; there weren't any world-beaters against Villa, but the squad as a whole seemed to gel fairly well in the second-half performance that ultimately won the match. As expected, Raheem Sterling dropped out of the squad completely, with Oussama Assaidi coming in to replace him and Daniel Sturridge once again starting on the bench.
West Ham's approach was clear from the outset--back the box, close down the space in Liverpool's final third, and take whatever scraps the hosts dropped. And, for most of the 90 minutes, it stifled and suffocated Rodgers' squad, with only a handful of noteworthy incidents at either end, most of which somehow involved the decision-making of referee Anthony Taylor and his officiating crew.
For all their early impetus Liverpool had little to show in terms of chances, with Philippe Coutinho's low effort saved well and Glen Johnson failing to win a foul just outside the penalty area. Whether or not it was a foul was debatable, but it was part of a growing body of evidence that suggested that Taylor wasn't feeling particularly generous on the day.
Mohamed Diame's left-footed shot on twenty minutes was West Ham's first real attacking threat, and it was followed just a few minutes later by the first chance of the day for Suarez, who nutmegged James Collins before pulling a shot wide from distance. Daniel Sturridge came on for Stewart Downing shortly after the Suarez effort, as the Englishman suffered some sort of knock and couldn't continue. Liverpool's best chance from open play of the day came just two minutes after Sturridge's introduction, with Coutinho and Suarez linking well in the box to create a shot that Jussi Jääskeläinen did well to save.
A Lucas giveaway gifted Carlton Cole his only real chance to influence the match at the other end, but Daniel Agger got his body in the way to clear the danger and bring most of the first-half action to a close. Liverpool started the second half on the front foot, with a couple of dangerous crosses fizzed across the face of goal only to dribble away to safety. They finally got one past Jääskeläinen in the 66th minute, as Sturridge redirected a Jordan Henderson cross/shot in on the far side. It was whistled offside, though, even as replays showed that Sturridge was level with the last defender.
Less than five minutes later Taylor was again involved, this time waiving off clear penalty shouts for Steven Gerrard, who'd worked his way into the box and pushed past James Tomkins, who went to ground in the path of the Liverpool midfielder. It was close to a carbon copy of the penalty awarded to Luis Suarez last week at Villa, but Taylor turned it away, leaving Liverpool justifiably aggrieved.
From there the outcome seemed relatively settled, and Lucas' goal-line clearance from a Jack Collison header saved Liverpool from coming out even worse on the day. All they tried amounted to nothing; Oussama Assaidi's introduction, switching the shape of the front four, crossing, corners, one-touch through the middle--none of it had any positive impact, and Liverpool stumbled to a 0-0 draw.
The decisions from Anthony Taylor were frustrating and borderline incompetent, but Liverpool have only themselves to blame, of course, with few other than Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Agger acquitting themselves on the day. Pepe Reina was okay because he didn't really have anything to do, but that's not so much a measure of any quality other than to say that West Ham didn't attack too often and when they did he was either in the right place at the right time or was saved by Lucas.
Most others showed more of the form from the first half at Villa than the second, as the midfield looked fragile under the pressure provided by Diame and the front four, with or without Stewart Downing, couldn't find a finishing touch. Shunting Daniel Sturridge to the right didn't do him any favors, and while Coutinho was creative and dangerous, Luis Suarez was more off than on, and while there were a few glimpses of link-up between the three, they couldn't find a way through a sturdy West Ham defense.
It was another poor display from Glen Johnson, who was poor at both ends of the pitch, and Jose Enrique wasn't especially inspiring on the left. For Johnson it's a continuation of an abysmal run, but one that sees him continue unchallenged due to the lack of depth and/or Brendan Rodgers' hesitancy to make significant changes involving established players that are underperforming. Bringing on Oussama Assaidi didn't have whatever sort of impact Rodgers had hoped for, as the rusty Moroccan couldn't get himself involved and was mostly lost from the wide areas.
All in all it was just a miserable day, one that's devoid of lessons or purpose or any sort of emotion other than frustration. Frustration at the result, at Anthony Taylor's incompetence, at Liverpool's inability to break down the opposition, at the opposition's refusal to actually play football, and, ultimately, that this result isn't one with which we're entirely unfamiliar.