West Ham United 1 Lanzini 55’
Liverpool 4 Salah 21’ 75’, Matip 24’, Oxlade-Chamberlain 56’
I realize dubstep’s cultural moment— such as it was— passed in the early aughts, and we’re all better off for having moved on. But if you’ll indulge me for just a few brief minutes:
Ok, I think we all got that out of our system now.
The important thing here is that Liverpool, after a dismal Act I in the 2017-18 campaign that left them with two wins in ten games, are now on a hot streak with their third win in a row in all competitions. The latest was today’s 4-1 win over West Ham, the kind of game that the Reds needed to win against a team that they had, inexplicably, struggled against in recent seasons. While the ultimate importance of this game may be overstated here, there’s no doubt that the result feels really, really good.
So I realized something at kickoff: I hate the third kit this season. Absolutely hate it. I thought I wouldn’t hate it when I first saw it, and I felt it was better than other recent third kits (cough cough Toxic Thunder cough cough), and I vaguely remember not minding it when I saw it earlier in the season. But I don’t know, friend. Maybe it’s the lights at the Olympic Stadium. Maybe it was my coffee being slightly burnt. But this Festive Gourd Innards color scheme was really rubbing me the wrong way.
In defence of the screaming neon pumpkin of death kit, it's probably the one the arm sponsorship looks least annoying on. So.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) November 4, 2017
It was obnoxious enough that I couldn’t focus on Sadio Mane getting his first start since August, or Liverpool doing well to (mostly) control the game through the first 15-20 minutes. This third kit had become an acute feverish malady, an encephalitic affliction of the soul.
You know what’s really effective at helping break out of these color-induced shame spirals? Mohamed Salah scoring goals. He’s so good, my friends. His goal around the 20th minute at the end of a perfect counterattack was just... ugh. Makes my heart sing.
Barely three minutes after Salah’s opener, Joel Matip doubled the advantage with a cheeky toe-poke off a corner kick. Joel Matip! We all hated him like three weeks ago and he sure showed us!
I know it’s playing with fire but at this stage of the game I couldn’t help wonder why I was ever afraid of West Ham. They were, briefly, something of a bogey team for Liverpool, and I have something of a conditioned fear response when we face them now. But we’re doing okay so far! Maybe I was wrong! (Knock on wood.)
In any event, Liverpool went into the tunnel at halftime looking like they were in control. A lot of time for things to go wrong in the second half, but for now at least, things looked solid.
At least as far as the outfield went. Simon Mignolet had an... interesting day. And by interesting I mean striking terror into the hearts of Liverpool fans. Lots of questionable decisions from him on positioning, whether it was coming out for a ball too slowly or committing too hard to coming out for a ball and then getting caught out in No Man’s Land. (This happened a few times. It was distressing.) I don’t know if better positioning or better decision-making would’ve stopped Manuel Lanzini from breaking the clean sheet and pulling West Ham to within one. But it likely didn’t help.
Good thing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain decided to step up. His goal less than a minute after Lanzini’s gave Liverpool their two-goal cushion back and helped head off a collective panic attack. For this, as in all things, we give thanks.
15 minutes from time, Salah scored his second goal on the day to finish West Ham off. For this, also, we give thanks.
Liverpool saw the game out and claimed all three points with the 4-1 win. It might be too early to say that the Reds have washed the bad taste of the season’s start out of their mouths, and they definitely have not exorcised all their demons. But comebacks start with games like today. The Premier League title is almost certainly out of reach (a tough thing to cop to in November), but if Liverpool can halt their slide and put together more games like today, Top Four may still be attainable. Rumors of Liverpool’s demise may well be exaggerated.
In the meantime, today’s result was an unadulterated good thing. Let’s enjoy this while we can.