Liverpool 2 Sterling 51', Sturridge 80'
West Ham 0
- Pre-match thoughts: One more turn with Raheem Sterling as a false nine, but with Daniel Sturridge on the bench things feels much better. It'd be interesting to know if Steven Gerrard has a real "hamstring niggle," of if he's just worn out from playing 120 minutes a few days ago.
- Andre Marriner doesn't like poor Emre Can very much. First a flying elbow to the face goes uncalled, then just a couple minutes later gets whistled for winning the ball cleanly with a standing challenge on Ener Valencia. Not the greatest refereeing start. Of course, Marriner further proved that he's a poor ref through a variety of hilariously poor calls and non-calls throughout the half, so perhaps that's not surprising.
- Marriner's allowance of West Ham to play a much more physical brand of football than he did Liverpool gave the home side a lot of trouble in the first half. Their ability to hand out little clips and shoves without being whistled for much of the half let them up their level of aggression when Liverpool were in possession, and Liverpool's inability to breathe on West Ham players without being whistled meant they could hardly even press the ball. It's one thing when a referee makes a few poor decisions, but when he changes the way the match is played to this extent, it's extraordinarily frustrating to watch unfold.
- Liverpool were denied a stonewall penalty right before halftime when Raheem Sterling tried to burst in to the box, only to be bear-hugged and spun around by Joey O'Brien. Lazar Markovic's try at taking advantage of a loose ball behind the defense was clever, but his shot was ultimately off target.
- Half-time thoughts: Liverpool are struggling to deal with West Ham's physicality, but even beyond the unbalanced refereeing, they need to do better on the ball. Too often they've had attackers with the ball not get enough support ahead of them and around them, leading to West Ham closing them down until they lose possession. Having a more physical presence up top, like, say, Daniel Sturridge, and sliding Raheem Sterling a little deeper back on the pitch where he can exploit space would make much more sense for Liverpool with the way this match is unfolding.
- Or not, since Sterling scored just a few minutes in to the half. An odd deflection off Winston Reid fell straight to Philippe Coutinho, and his first touch pushed the ball through West Ham's line and in to Sterling's path to hammer home. It was a lovely bit of heads-up football, something Liverpool haven't always done well with this season, and in the face of the side's struggles on the day it was excellent to see.
- Daniel Sturridge makes his triumphant return! Subbed on in the 68th minute, Sturridge definitely looked like someone who hasn't played since September for awhile... until he scored a lovely goal 12 minutes later, thanks to another lovely assist from Coutinho. Seeing Danny dance again was extraordinarily heart-warming.
- We almost saw Jordon Ibe score his first EPL goal on a lovely stepover-cut-in-shot late in the match, but he didn't get quite enough on the ball to knock it past Adrian. Sturridge nearly scored off the rebound, but his own try went wide of the post.
- Full-time thoughts: This can't get to the end without mentioning Mamadou Sakho. The Frenchman was absolutely huge today, with West Ham constantly trying to test him and failing at every time of asking. On set pieces, in open play, against Carroll or Downing or Cole or Nolan or Valencia, West Ham just couldn't beat him. Well in, Mamadou.
We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.