Liverpool 2 West Ham 0: The traditional three points

Posted by Barrettski on October 30, 2005, 02:49:17 PM

We were impotent against Fulham and we were lethargic against Palace.  Liverpool seemed to be lurching between medical woes and needed some sort of medication.  I thought we needed a confidence boosting kick about against a football loving, but ultimately open and deficient, side.  Up stepped West Ham.  Marvellous.  The god of fixture lists had smiled upon us.

West Ham is the sort of game where you wish the Anfield seats had fold out tables to stick the beer on.  Or should that be a spot of vino? - because these games are for the footballing connoisseur really.  We can’t be bothered singing, but it’s great to watch them turn up and try to play the football that they’re so dedicated to.  Then ultimately we win.  Which is nice.

The pre-match radio talk suggested a 4-2-3-1 Real Madrid type formation and the fortieth (that’s 40) game in a row with a change in the starting line up.  So the fear was that the traditional kick about and three points wouldn’t materialise.  On the other hand Stevie was now back and everyone was smarting from the midweek performance.  On the other hand Pardew seemed to have an unnatural air of confidence about him.  And on the other hand (because let’s face it, football pundits are mutants) West Ham had done precious little away from home this season.  The only truth was that anyone attempting to read the signs had their work cut out here.

West Ham lined up with virtually the same 4-4-2 they’ve been playing all season.  Imagine that huh?  Hislop (Shakakahn) stood in for a hapless Roy Carroll in nets.  Ferdinand (looks like his brother, plays like his brother) and Gabbidon (looks like a newbie, plays like a newbie) lined up as centre backs.  Repka (looks like a thug, plays like a thug) and Konchesky (looks like a Wes Brown, plays like a Wes Brown) provided the kind of full back cover that wingers delight in.  In midfield the energy and class was provided by Reo Coker.  Around him they placed creative Israeli midfielder Jossi Benayoun (floppy hair, floppy tackling), Etherington (left sided Spurs reject) and Mullins (good athlete, no brain).  Without Bobby Zamora, the Irons lined up with Bellion (one of “Sir” Alex’s more hilarious signings) and Harewood (a hilarious battering ram).  Everyone’s favourite Ferrari driving bellend was on the bench.

For Liverpool (I’m mastering the art of sounding like George here)… we lined up with Pepe in nets.  A solid looking Riise and Finnan took the full back positions.  An even more solid looking Hyypia and Carra took the middle.  No place here for Warnock (not learning quickly enough?), crazy legs Djimi (not able to concentrate long enough?) or Josemi (not able to play zone defence?).  In midfield we put Alonso and Sissoko infront of the back four with Stevie and Luis Garcia out wide.  That’s how we lined up with Stevie wide right and Garcia wide left.  Which meant a nicely balanced 4-4-2 (bloody marvellous).  Upfront we had Cisse and Morientes competing once again for the barn door trophy (bloody frustrating). 

The opening salvos of this game demonstrated how open the play would be.  West Ham don’t do two banks of four like a Blackburn or Sunderland.  Well, they do but they like to break out and one early rampage saw Riise cut Repka down only for Harewood to do something bizarre infront of Reina from the resulting free kick.  I’d have shot instead, but that might just be me.  Our equivalent of an early counter attack saw Cisse launch one into the Annie Road End.  It’s a dangerous place to sit these days.

A kind of ding dong pass-and-rush game continued with Alonso failing to keep one of those volley-from-a-poor-corner-clearance efforts down.  A neat interchange of passing then saw Garcia pop up on the right, pick up Nando’s deft touch and skip in on goal.  A drag back would have left Carra with a side foot tap in.  Instead he struck one off a happy hammer for a corner.  Sometimes I think the current stars should watch some late 80s videos.  Not Miami Vice or anything, but the 5-0 drubbing of Forest would show players how easy it is to score if you look up.  It would also show people who Forest actually were, but that’s another issue.

West Ham continued to create situations resembling pressure, especially when Reo Coker and the floppy haired Israeli chappy were given licence to run with the ball.  Ultimately they came to nothing though as a solid wall and then a solid Sami stood in their way.

At the other end Stevie was causing problems.  Their left back was struggling to decide whether to pick him up, let him go or spend some time watching and admiring the movement.  Playing Stevie and Luis as wide receivers gave Alonso the licence to play quarterback and spray passes to the pair of them.  These tactics resulted in another corner and from another poor clearance Xabi received the ball 30 yards out.  This time he placed it and with the help of Repka’s (meat) head it curled beyond Shaka for the first goal.

The air of relief around the ground was audible.  Some fans were so relieved they started singing.  It was almost like having a big club come and visit for a few minutes but that soon passed as we realised two goals were likely to be necessary here.  Stevie responded to the crowd and appeared to want to go for the kill.  Sadly the front pair were not on the same page.  Cisse volleyed one cross into the Annie Road and Morientes seemed to want to have a head start on every player in order to get to anything first.  One – nil it stayed going into the break.

The visiting fans were treated to a bit of sunshine at half time.  Perhaps it was some reward for singing bubbles at us for a while.  But then that was inbetween Chelsea songs and remnants of half hearted classics from the 80s and 90s.  West Ham must be the Century FM of away fans.  “Feed the scousers”, “Sign on” and “Stand up if you have a job”?  Good grief.  But then it kind of warms my heart these days.  Liverpool has moved on a long way since those songs meant anything.  It’s a shame the East End of London hasn’t.  Build a velodrome, that’ll work.

West Ham kicked off the second half and it seemed as though Reo Coker fancied winning this one.  He took every opportunity to run at Liverpool but inevitably ended up in a heap after successive challenges by the likes of Garcia (yes, I know), Riise and then Morientes.  Nando earned more than a yellow card for his tracking back.  He earned the respect of the fans here today.  Here was a player who has achieved everything giving it all to get back to full fitness and back into form.  Hats off to him.

With Reo out of puff, Harewood out of ideas and Benayoun out of floppy haired inspiration it was all Liverpool now as the Kop wished the ball towards them.  Successive free kicks came to nothing and a snap shot from Gerrard outside the area drifted wide.  One corner created enough confusion for Sami to arrive unseen (yes, I know) and hit a peach that came back off Konchesky on the line.  Magnet boy Konchesky managed to clear the resulting scramble and we were still waiting for the second goal.

Alonso and Gerrard were by now providing a master class in keeping the ball moving to open up West Ham again.  Once again Morientes appeared too slow to capitalise on successive through balls – or was there too much weight on them?  You decide.  Nando then rose for more of a trademark effort on goal – a header from Finnan’s early outswinging cross.  The ball glanced off Morientes for Shaka to save low to his right.  More contact and more power would have seen the net bulge.  Shame.

Into the last twenty minutes it was substitute time.  Zenden came on for Cisse (even if Morientes looked more likely to make way) and Garcia pushed up to play behind Nando. The balance was retained and Zenden’s industry produced a brace of fine crosses and then the goal. Picking the ball up wide on the left, Bolo capitalised on the space and cut inside for headed for the goal. Single mindedly he took the shot which came back off the post to nestle in the opposite corner. Anything else would have been chastised by one and all as the other options queued up for the tap in. 2-0 then with enough time to give Peter Crouch a rarefied airing and a standing ovation for Nando’s industry.

Let’s be honest, this wasn’t the kind of performance to put minds at rest.  Rafa’s post match comments were, once again, about working hard and controlling the game.  I know we played OK and we even scored a couple but Rafa needs a press conference where he comes out and says we overpowered the opposition, were too creative and solid for them to live with us.  With work still in progress on this team, that could be quite a while in coming.  We’d better get used to that, however many times we need to watch the Istanbul DVD to make us feel good.

Redmen performances:

Reina:  Mostly untroubled (again)... but definitely suspect with some of the distribution he attempted.  This wasn't a confidence inspiring performance from him by any means.

Riise:  Had a run or two but ultimately gave us a bit of steel and shape at left back.  Can’t put my finger on it, but we looked more comfortable with this back four and with John at left back than we have done in recent games.

Carragher:  Add your own favourite Carra comments here as per usual.  Will probably have kicked Garcia for failing to provide him that first half goal.  Drove forward from the back and looked like a one man defence at times when the ball was pinging about in the second half.  Still dreaming of a team of Carraghers.

Hyypia:  Solid, and never really troubled by the bustle of Harewood.  But then the West Ham attack didn’t seem to have that much pace about it today.  Therein lies the discussion.

Finnan:  A class game from Stevie today as he gets back to full fitness.  The positional play was faultless.  The passing was crisp and the crosses were worthy of a world class full back.  Welcome back.

Luis Garcia:  Started out on the left (but switched with Stevie as the game and freedom allowed).  Probably the best I’ve seen him play.  Why?  There was few of those fancy 1 in 10 flicks and more of the early ball passing to feet.  Might even lose his luxury player tag if he carries on like that.

Xabi Alonso:  Man of the match.  Everything good seemed to go through him and he’d changed his boots since the out of character three bob boot passes of the Blackburn game.  Pure class.

Momo Sissoko:  Hmmm.  He started off with pace, industry and tackling and we wondered if we had a great prospect on our hands.  The his passing seemed to be suspect.  Today he had an indifferent game.  Up against Reo Coker (I liked him, can you tell?) he looked second best, slower and less strong.  He also had a couple of Djimi moments to gift possession to them.  I’d sit him down in front of a Souness video I would.

Gerrard:  Out on the right in the (dare I say it) Beckham captain’s position for the good of the team, this idea worked a treat.  But then I’m sure Stevie would be the best option in all but Xabi’s, the left sided and the keeper’s positions.  Hell of a dilemma for any manager that.  But with Garcia doing the job on the other side, Stevie provided the kind of attacking danger that any striker would love to see behind them…

Cisse:  …unless you’re Cisse and you want everything to feet at the nano second that you asked for it… even if you haven’t worked out the offside law yet.  I’m harsh on Cisse but only because he frustrates.  He blazes wide when making the keeper work is a necessity for a quality striker off his favoured foot.  He opts to pass when a shot would be an idea etc. etc.

Morientes:  Great effort – but will he ever return to former glories?  I’m not sure.

Referee:  Uriah Heap.  Enough said.  Should be relegated again.

© Barrettski 2005

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