West Ham rue Fabianski fumble as Liverpool strike from behind
Liverpool made history in taking another leap towards the Premier League title but West Ham made them fight all the way for a place in the record books. Jürgen Klopp's champions-elect established a new Premier League record of 21 consecutive home wins with victory over David Moyes' side, equalling Manchester City's run of 18 successive wins in the process, but this was an exhaustive triumph.
The runaway leaders trailed to Pablo Fornals' second half goal before a dreadful mistake from West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski enabled Mohamed Salah to level. From that moment on there was an air of inevitability about Liverpool's victory and Sadio Mané duly obliged with eight minutes remaining. West Ham are without a win in seven league matches and remain in the relegation zone but will depart with thoughts of what might have been.
West Ham's problems, of course, are not restricted to the growing threat of relegation or absence of any bounce under their new manager. The mutinous mood of the away section reflected structural flaws, and the strength of feeling against a board that promised a world-class team in a world-class stadium and have failed to deliver on both counts.
"Karren Brady - You're Fired" read one banner; "Sullivan - This Charmless Man" read another. Hundreds of black balloons were also released at kick-off in protest and many were still being popped when Liverpool took an early lead. An easy one too, to the dismay of Moyes and those travelling fans expecting at least a show of resolve in the fight against the drop.
Klopp's team require no assistance in their pursuit of the Premier League title but were almost gifted a breakthrough when Lukasz Fabianski hesitated on a back pass he never wanted from Issa Diop. Mané charged down the goalkeeper's delayed clearance but, fortunately for Fabianski, the ball cannoned off the striker's legs and wide. He did not escape with a second mistake, although it was a collective failing in the West Ham defence that enabled Georginio Wijnaldum to open the scoring.
When Roberto Firmino saw a shot blocked inside the West Ham area the threat to Fabianski's goal appeared over. Or so the visitors thought. The ball spun away towards the corner flag where Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped over a trademark peach of a cross for Wijnaldum to head beyond Fabianski. Robert Snodgrass and Diop reacted too late to the cross and the midfielder's darting run across the penalty area but the Poland keeper was also culpable. Wijnaldum's header was hardly bullet-like but found its target via Fabianski's weak forearm.
It was the worst possible start to what had always threatened to be a long night for Moyes's team but West Ham's response, in fairness, could not be faulted. They were level within three minutes through the first of several dangerous set pieces into the Liverpool penalty area.
Snodgrass won and took a corner from the right. Diop peeled away from Joe Gomez and equalised with a glancing header that Alisson was unable to stop despite getting a hand to the effort. It was the first Premier League goal Liverpool had conceded on home soil since December 4th and prompted an outbreak of "We're gonna win the league" from the visiting fans. Laughter emerged from the rest of the stadium.
Fabianski produced a fine save to prevent Mohamed Salah finding the top corner after he cut inside Aaron Cresswell on the corner of the West Ham area. Virgil van Dijk struck the crossbar with a header from an Alexander-Arnold corner and the right-back also went close with a low drive from Firmino's lay-off. West Ham also had their first-half moments, however, with Michail Antonio driving clear of Gomez only for a heavy touch to allow Alisson to collect and Diop just failing to connect from another inviting corner from Felipe Anderson.
Liverpool struggled to find their rhythm all night and Jordan Henderson's absence was sorely felt in central midfield. The departure of Tomas Soucek early in the second half through injury hinted at enhancing their prospects, as the January recruit had been highly effective in the West Ham midfield, but his replacement made a greater impression.
Fornals had been on the pitch only eight minutes when he stunned Anfield by sweeping the visitors ahead. Declan Rice delivered a low cross from the right after patient build-up play from Snodgrass and Mark Noble. Gomez was slow to react and the Spanish midfielder steered a first-time shot wide of Alisson's despairing dive.
As always, Klopp's players refused to be derailed by a deficit or a jaded display. Alexander-Arnold stung Fabianski's fingers with a soaring drive from distance before Liverpool levelled courtesy of a shocking error from the West Ham keeper. It followed a fine move, started by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross-field ball to Andy Robinson and his darting run inside Snodgrass to set up Salah. The forward's shot was low and straight at Fabianski but squeezed through the keeper's hands and trickled over the line. Cue despair for West Ham and greater relief for the champions-elect.
Liverpool pressed on for the record breaking win and, somewhat inevitably, it arrived late in the day. Alexander-Arnold was quickest to react when Gomez's shot deflected off Noble and sailed into the West Ham area.
As Fabianski advanced the full-back had the presence of mind to lift the ball over his head and there was Mané, unmarked, to tap home the winner. - Guardian
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