Monday, 8 April 2013

Reds held by stubborn Hammers

Liverpool failed to break down West Ham United's defence at Anfield yesterday, as Sam Allardyce's men frustrated their hosts to claim a point that should see them safely avoid the drop this season. The Merseysiders, meanwhile, face an uphill task to even finish ahead of neighbours Everton, let alone qualify for European competition.

As it was the Reds' closest home game to the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, a minute's silence for the 96 was held before kick-off, which both sets of supporters observed impeccably.

Never forgotten- the Reds respect the memory of the 96
When the football began, Liverpool were in control and enjoyed most of possession but the visitors remained solid at the back and adhered to their game plan manfully. Coutinho's low shot was saved by Jasskelainen and Gerrard's half volley bobbled wide, but it was West Ham who showed the first sign of real excellence.

Diame did superbly well to get out of the corner of the pitch, using impressive skill to navigate the challenges of numerous Liverpool players before blasting over the bar when he should have really tested Reina. After the sick Stewart Downing had to be replaced by Daniel Sturridge, a good block was also required from Agger to stop Carlton Cole's shot, as the game began to even up.

In truth, though, there was little in the way of action and the only other chance before the break came on the stroke of half time, as Henderson's shot was deflected wide. During the interval, it felt as if it was going to be one of those days. With the Hammers set up to keep the Reds out at all costs, an early goal was crucial and, having failed to net one, the home side's task seemed doubly difficult.

Gerrard nearly opened the scoring ten minutes after the restart but he was denied by a goal line clearance from Tomkins. Suarez's cross then screamed across the face of goal, before Sturridge had the ball in the back of the net but he was marginally offside. 

Although creating little going forward, the Londoners had a good penalty shout turned down by referee Anthony Taylor, as Enrique inadvertently kicked Tomkins as he tried to clear a free kick into the box. However, he was arguably fortunate not to concede a spot kick himself at the other end, as he then fouled skipper Steven Gerrard in the penalty area but the Reds' protests fell on deaf ears. Maybe the myth that refereeing decisions tend to even themselves out was accurate on this occasion. 

Four minutes from time, West Ham almost netted a smash-and-grab winner, as a goal line clearance from Lucas Leiva was required to prevent Collison's header finding the back of the Anfield Road end net. Suarez's shot in injury time may then have tested Jasskelainen, but the Finn was up to the task and pushed behind for a corner, which came to nothing.

Frustration- Suarez was shackled by Collins
It was a disappointing conclusion to what was a frustrating afternoon. To be fair to West Ham, their effective rearguard performance was what made the match frustrating, as they limited Liverpool to only a few goalscoring chances and successfully accomplished their aim of pinching a point by keeping a clean sheet.

Thankfully these matches have become rarer under Rodgers, whose style of play has usually led to high-scoring affairs. Unfortunately, though, that doesn't take away the exasperation experienced after a goalless draw that leaves Liverpool floundering in seventh place, with little scope to climb the table before the end of the campaign.

Justice for the 96, YNWA

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