ANFIELD ONLINE MATCH REPORT
Liverpool lifted the pressures on Anfield with only their third victory of an increasingly worrying Barclays Premiership season.
After a week which has seen them heavily criticised for defeats at Fulham and Crystal Palace, goals from Xabi Alonso and Bolo Zenden produced a comfortable if not totally convincing victory.
West Ham, as you would expect, were prepared to attack and had plenty of possession but not the cutting edge to really make life difficult for the European champions.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez made seven changes from the side that lost to Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup in midweek.
Back came Jose Reina, Steve Finnan, John Arne Riise, Djibril Cisse, Xabi Alonso, Mohamed Sissoko and Jamie Carragher. Peter Crouch was on the bench, with Fernando Morientes preferred up front.
Anton Ferdinand and Yossi Benayoun were playing for West Ham after injuries and loan forward David Bellion was given his full Premiership debut for the club. Teddy Sheringham was consigned to the bench.
Unusually Liverpool started with Steven Gerrard on the right flank with Sissoko and Alonso in the centre of midfield.
It was West Ham who posed the first threat when Paul Konchesky's free-kick came into the box and Marlon Harewood for some reason turned it away from goal rather than hitting it towards the unguarded near post.
And when Konchesky had his 20-yard shot charged down following a corner, Liverpool broke with pace and had five men against one defender, Ferdinand, in West Ham's half but Cisse still managed to blast his shot wide from 18 yards.
But Gerrard was not confined to the right for long and he popped up on the left flank to cause mayhem with a cross. The resulting corner saw Luis Garcia cut in from the right to fire an angled shot which Danny Gabbidon blocked.
West Ham came forward with some confidence. Benayoun was tripped by Sami Hyypia just outside the box but the free-kick was blasted into the wall by the Israeli midfielder, and then Hyypia had to throw himself in the way of Tomas Repka's cross at the near post.
But West Ham's inability to clear Luis Garcia's corner cost them dearly on 18 minutes when the ball only got as far as the edge of the box and Alonso sent a low drive which flicked off Repka's head and curled away from Shaka Hislop into the bottom corner.
Benayoun saw a snap-shot from a poor Reina throw out grasped gratefully by the goalkeeper before Liverpool almost punished West Ham when Matthew Etherington was caught in possession.
Gerrard sped away and fed Luis Garcia, but although the Spaniard created space for a shot it lacked power to trouble Hislop.
Harewood pulled a shot from the edge of the box wide of the far post and then saw a close-range flick collected by Reina.
West Ham were having more possession than they maybe expected but there was no real punch in the box, while Liverpool looked dangerous on the break.
Morientes was booked for hauling back Nigel Reo-Coker in midfield on 49 minutes and Gerrard came close two minutes later with a fierce drive just wide from 20 yards.
Hyypia had a header blocked on the line by Konchesky, and West Ham scrambled the ball away when Morientes went for the rebound - again Konchesky making the vital block.
West Ham were allowing themselves to be pushed too deep, and Cisse's run down the right produced a low cross which Repka hacked away from danger.
Then the east Londoners replaced Bellion with Jeremie Aliadiere on 59 minutes, seconds later Repka getting in on the right to fire in a near post cross which almost caught Reina off his line.
But Liverpool were turning the screw, and Gerrard should have shot 18 yards out rather than trying to set up Morientes with a chance which drifted behind.
In the 66th minute West Ham brought on Teddy Sheringham for Etherington, but Morientes should have scored a minute later when he met a Gerrard cross but could not direct it far enough away from Hislop's dive.
Hislop produced the save of the match to turn away a Luis Garcia shot after Gabbidon had been caught in possession.
Finnan was booked for a foul on Konchesky, before Bolo Zenden replaced Cisse with 18 minutes to go - and his first touch was a cross that Luis Garcia headed wide of the far post.
Hislop had to save at Morientes' feet as Liverpool mounted sustained pressure, before West Ham gambled - and lost.
The visitors took off Repka and sent on centre half James Collins, who went up front, leaving the Hammers with three defenders - and the space on the left was instantly exploited by Liverpool.
Riise's headed clearance dropped into Zenden's path, without a defender near him. He cut into the box and drilled his shot in off the far post on 82 minutes, his first goal for Liverpool and the points settled.
Liverpool: J Reina, S Finnan, S Hyypia, J Carragher, J Riise, S Luis Garcia, S Gerrard, X Alonso, M Sissoko, D Cisse, F Morientes
Subs: P Crouch, D Hamann, S Carson, S Warnock, B Zenden
West Ham: S Hislop, T Repka, A Ferdinand, D Gabbidon, P Konchesky, Y Benayoun, N Reo-Coker, H Mullins, M Etherington, D Bellion, M Harewood
Subs: S Bywater, C Dailly, T Sheringham, J Collins, J Aliadiere
Ref: U Rennie
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|Match Report filed: 29 October 2005|