Liverpool moved to the top of the league, clear by one point, but for the third time against lower-half placed teams at Anfield, the reds failed to score and left having given another 2 points away.
The reds have already dropped 6 points they can ill-afford to drop at Anfield and when the final analysis comes – Liverpool could rue these poor performances.
The problem is clear, the reds lack that quality up front when Torres is missing. 15 corners, plenty of crosses – the reds presented opportunities up front. Many Liverpool fans will have been forgiven for wondering if Robbie Keane was playing after a first half in which he barely touched the ball, or even went looking for it.
The reds started fairly brightly, and West Ham initially appeared that they were ready to make a game of it.
Albert Riera’s tame shot was cleared off the line when it was hit straight at Carlton Cole. It was symptomatic of Liverpool’s play that a winger who started so well in games of the magnitude of United, Chelsea and Everton is now struggling to turn in a decent performance against the likes of Fulham and West Ham at home.
Chance of the first half fell to one of the goalscorers Liverpool let go, Craig Bellamy, flashed a shot at the post as the first half was winding down.
The man of the first half was the recalled Sami Hyypia. The Finn, playing in his 454th Liverpool game and matching the legendary Ron Yeats, gave an assured performance and had two first half headers that could have opened the reds scoring. Andrea Dossena, much maligned and quite rightly since the dawn of his Anfield career, improved. At Udinese he was used more as a left winger with 3 central defenders behind him, and his crossing was good – more mobile strikers would no doubt have enjoyed his service.
The second half started and gradually the pressure was increasing – the nervousness of fans and players, and those at home, was reaching tipping point. A Benayoun chance got the faintest of touches from Robert Green – but it was enough to tip the ball over the bar.
With 25 minutes left Benitez finally made a substitution, bringing off Keane for N’Gog. Robbie Keane’s shake of the head will have done little to help his case with fans tired of his performances. Almost immediately David N’Gog was actively seeking the ball and fired a 30 yarder shot goalbound.
Ryan Babel appeared, far too late in many people’s opinion, and caused West Ham problems. But West Ham had their own chances to seal their first win in 45 years too at the other end. The linesmen incorrectly flagging at least one glorious chance for the Hammers.
At full time, some of the Anfield daytrippers threw in their boos. On a night that started with unity over the Michael Shields case it was a real shame that so many fans appear to know nothing about the spirit and ethos of the club to join the also rans of football in this way.
The reds are top of the league. But we all know, we should be their with a healthy cushion of arguably 7 points – not one.
Post Match Reaction
“We clearly deserved to win.
“From the beginning to the end we tried to win and that’s why they had one or two counter attacks in the second half.
“The team played much better than before and some players did too.
“People can be disappointed and we are too, but we are one point clear at the top
“We didn’t play well against Fulham but in this game we had plenty of possession, passed and moved the ball, and had chances.
“If you play badly, don’t have chances and the other team is in control, you can be worried – but we were much better.
“The crowd can be disappointed because they’ve seen a draw at home but if they see the newspapers tomorrow they will see we are top.”
“Maybe some players are, but it’s just a case of us trying to keep creating chances – then I’m sure we’ll start taking them,”
Gianfranco Zola, West Ham boss
“We were very solid, very good.”
“We were playing against a tough team in difficult conditions, their performance was outstanding.
“When you keep a clean sheet it’s not all down to the defenders. They are a team, they all work hard, that’s why we got a point here, a deserved point.
“It looks like it’s going to be a more balanced championship, which makes it even more interesting.
“I’m sure Liverpool are going to be up for it until the end. Today they were unlucky they were playing against a good team. It’s going to be a close race.”
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Dossena, Benayoun, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera (Babel 78), Kuyt, Keane (Ngog 66).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Mascherano, Leiva Lucas, Insua.
West Ham: Green, Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Faubert (Boa Morte 86), Parker, Mullins, Behrami, Bellamy, Cole.
Subs Not Used: Noble, Lastuvka, Tristan, Davenport, Collison, Di Michele.
Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).
Match Thread and post match inquest here
Liverpool Possession: 66%. Shots: 25 (On target = 6 ). 522 accurate passes. 76 bad passes.
West Ham Possession: 34% Shots: 7 (On target = 2). 203 accurate passes. 50 bad passes.