The home side put up a fight, but a pair of penalty decisions downed the Hammers as Liverpool returned themselves to the top of the table and retained control of the Premier League race.
Steven Gerrard slotted home both chances from the spot, one in each half, to deny a stubborn West Ham a surprise result and nullify a Guy Demel goal just before the break.
West Ham begun the game with some poise, keeping Liverpool’s blistering attack at bay for the opening 15 minutes and producing a half-chance or two of their own.
The first real chance on goal was a Luis Suarez shot on 19 minutes that would have been a stunning goal out of nothing, and it evaded the dive of Adrian but struck the top corner of the post curling towards goal.
The Hammers used their strong midfield to peg back Liverpool, who found it difficult to get into quality positions. Daniel Sturridge had a chance on a half-hour after a brilliant back-heel from Jordan Henderson but the ball took a bobble off the pitch and he lifted the shot well high.
West Ham nearly took a shock lead in the final five minutes before the break, but Kevin Nolan standing on the penalty spot couldn’t control a ball from Mohamed Diame after great work down the right flank.
It appeared Liverpool’s Premier League record of 22 straight matches with a first-half goal would come to an end, but three minutes to the break Luis Suarez flicked a ball on in the box that clipped the outstretched arm of James Tomkins and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.
Steven Gerrard cooly slotted the ball into the bottom corner, and all of West Ham’s strong tactical play in the first half came unraveled…or so it seemed.
A West Ham corner into stoppage time came in which Simon Mignolet should have collected, but he spilled under pressure by Andy Carroll and Guy Demel pounced with the ball barely even having touched the ground for the equalizer.
The referees convened after the linesman flagged, but they decided Carroll did not foul Mignolet. Replays showed there was contact, and while it may have been enough had they been playing basketball, the arm check wasn’t enough for Taylor to rule out the score.
The second half took a while to settle in, but Liverpool skirted a West Ham opportunity to go in front on 62 minutes when a thunderous header from Carroll was parried up and out of the way by Mignolet.
With title hopes on the line, Liverpool found their breakthrough to once again take the lead. Jon Flanagan looked for space down the left side of the box, and West Ham keeper Adrian took him down. It may have been a foul anyways, but a late tug by the keeper on Flanagan’s trailing foot ensured the penalty decision. Gerrard again was cool from the spot, and the Reds went on top again.
The second completed penalty gives Gerrard his 13th goal of the season, 10 of which have come via the spot.
West Ham began to get frustrated after going behind, and their fouling became more prevalent. Luis Suarez had himself a handful of chances late in the match, but Adrian was there to stop him a few times. Raheem Sterling also saw a late effort quelled by the Hammers stopper.
With the win, the Reds return themselves to the top of the table, two above Chelsea and four above City, who have played two fewer games. The Hammers, looking for a top 10 finish, are still three back of 10th-placed Stoke.
West Ham United – Adrian; Armero, Reid, Tomkins, Demel; Noble, Taylor (Jarvis 78′), Diame (Cole 85′), Downing, Nolan (Nocerino 68′); Carroll.
Goals: Demel 45+1′
Liverpool – Mignolet,; Johnson, Flanagan, Sakho, Skrtel; Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho (Lucas 45′), Sterling; Suarez, Sturridge (Toure 85′).
Goals: Gerrard 44′ (pen), 71′ (pen)