Ever since Liverpool’s elimination from the Europa Cup, games have been far and few in between, which in turn has meant that there has been plenty of time for the players to rest and prepare themselves well for the upcoming games. At the same time, it has also meant that the media and critics have had plenty of time to analyze and criticize the team (luckily with four wins in the past five games, it has mostly been constructive criticism). The past week was particularly eventful for two main reasons, the primary being the return of long term absentee Martin Kelly. The Liverpool youth trained for the first time since rupturing his knee ligaments in a 1-2 loss against Manchester United back in September. Young Italian striker Fabio Borini also began light training. The second was the popping up of the not so affable question, “What will happen regarding Andy Carroll?”. With the season end near, this seems to be the favourite questions of journalists far and wide. The club is still unsure of how they will proceed on the Carroll saga this summer; Rodgers has made it clear that he cannot be a part of his set-up whereas Liverpool’s astronomical demand of 17 million pounds seems way off the mark for any club to consider.
The week rolled by and the players took the field for the early Sunday kick off. There were no real surprises in the Liverpool team whereas West Ham were missing a host of big names, including ex-Reds Andy Carroll and Joe Cole. The match began with Liverpool unbeaten in 39 league games against West Ham (the last defeat came back in ’63, back in the Bobby Moore days) and the tempo which the home team showed early on suggested they were focused on making it 40 matches. West Ham, from the beginning, looked comfortable sitting back and thwarting Liverpool attacks. What has been a very positive sign for Liverpool supporters is that manager Brendan Rodgers is always quick to capitalize on changing formations mid-game and it was the same against West Ham. Suarez was constantly being crowded by a host of West Ham players and in the fifteenth minute, new signing Daniel Sturridge made way for winger Stewart Downing. The reds kept pressing but West Ham stood firm, and in the thirty third minute it was the Hammers who came close to breaking the deadlock when Carlton Cole was denied by a brave block by Danish international Daniel Agger. The half ended frantically for Liverpool with West Ham barely able to keep Liverpool at bay and a torrent of dissent being aimed at the referee for not allowing a last-second corner that might just have produced the goal the team was so after. Watching the match, I had a feeling that this might just turn out to be the match where your team does everything but score a goal.
The second half started the same way as the first but West Ham stood firm and in the fifty eighth minute, Gerrard had a good, strong pile-driver blocked by a diving West Ham defender. Luis Suarez came close with a leftfooted shot but the attentive Jaaskelainen came to the fore for the Hammers, once again. In the 78th minute, there was a clear trip on Gerrard which the referee chose to ignore to the cries of the Kop, and from that point on the Liverpool shoulders stooped and although they attacked, it seemed as though West Ham had psychologically made them submit to a stalemate. The rare introduction of Oussama Assaidi had little effect on the match for the last twenty minutes and the Hammers, for whom this has often been a hammering ground of sorts, went away with a well deserved point and a clean sheet to show for their efforts.
Man of the Match: Jussi Jaaskalainen – The ex-Bolton goalie had a super match. The keeper had the dubious record of having conceded seven goals to Steven Gerrard throughout his career, but made a string of super saves to keep his team in the contest. Manager Allardyce had come under fire for his team’s poor run of form but will be glad at his team’s superb performance.
Flop of the Match: Luis Suarez – The in-form Uruguayen had a rare bad outing for the Reds and missed two good goal-scoring chances, chances which you expect a striker of his class and form to put away in his sleep. He looked sloppy and frustrated, often not making the most of crisp, enticing passes from Brazilian wonder-boy Coutinho.
Final Score: Liverpool 0 – 0 West HamPublished 07 Apr 2013, 20:49 IST