After a bad run of performances and a short international break, West Ham United were clinically despatched, despite our midfield options looking a little worse for wear. With Gerrard out due to an injury picked up late on in England’s friendly against France, Lucas out because of a second yellow card late on in the 2-0 defeat against Stoke and Jay Spearing out due to an unfortunate ankle injury picked up in training, it looked as if we were going to struggle.
Poulsen made a return to the starting line up, while Miereles was shifted in to the middle – and arguably his natural position – with Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt on the wings. N’Gog joined Torres up front while Glen Johnson made a return to the squad for the first time since Roy Hodgson’s public criticism of the right-back.
With Hodgson’s words still ringing in his ears, Johnson made a storming start on his return, effectively marshalling his flank in defence. But it was the fact he was looking every bit the attacking right-back we all know he is as he stormed up the right wing, terrorising West Ham as he went.
Our attack was looking strong for the first quarter of an hour of the game, and eventually in the 18th minute Torres forced a corner from Robert Green. The corner that was whipped in was chested down comfortably by Johnson who had enough space to rifle the ball in to the back of the net.
West Ham looked to bite back immediately but their attack was quickly broken down and the Liverpool domination continued. Then, in the 26th minute, a Jamie Carragher ball high upfield was controlled by Dirk Kuyt. He then finds Torres, who ran in to the box and tried a little chip over Gabbidon. The West Ham defender handled the ball twice and a penalty was given. Up steps Dirk Kuyt, who coolly slots the ball down the middle of the goal as Green dived to his left.
Whatever fight was in West Ham all but left them as the first half continued. They forced a save in the 36th minute as Boa Morte found Carlton Cole but he could only head limply and straight to Pepe Reina.
Back up the other end of the pitch and Torres, coming in from the left flank, was denied from close range by Robert Green. The resultant clearance landed with Paul Konchesky who hit a pinpoint cross in to Maxi Rodriguez who was allowed the time and space to calmly nod in to make it 3-0.
The second half got underway with no changes for Liverpool. West Ham replaced Obinna with Berrera.
The start was a lot slower than the Liverpool that came out of the traps from the first whistle. We did have a valid penalty claim turned down in the 52nd minute as Gabbidon once again handled a Fernando Torres chance, but it was apparent that we were now sitting back and settling for the 3 goal lead.
While West Ham tried aimlessly to break down our defence, we were sitting rather deep and rarely venturing in numbers out of our own half. Torres did, however, see a long range opportunity come back off the crossbar on 72 minutes, closely followed by a thundering shot from Christian Poulsen who forced a terrific save from Robert Green.
Almost immediately after this, Fabio Aurelio came on for David N’Gog and looked to be occupying a position somewhere between left-back and the left midfield. Regardless, in the 82nd minute he ventured forward and unleashed a fantastic shot which narrowly missed out as it flew over the bar. Miereles, who was fantastic in his central midfield role, was replaced with Jonjo Shelvey and Torres was replaced with Ryan Babel shortly afterwards with the tie well and truly sewn up.
The result has lifted us in to ninth place, alongside Stoke City who have a superior goal difference. While it always good to win comfortably, it will be hard not to feel a certain disappointment to look back at this performance and feel that we could have doubled our lead in the second half had we kept the adventure and creativity that was clearly present in the first.
Liverpool Line-up against West Ham:
Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky, Kuyt, Meireles, Poulsen, Maxi, Torres, Ngog.
Subs: Jones, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Babel, Shelvey, Kelly, Eccleston.