If Liverpool already had an ironclad grip on the Premier League table coming into Wednesday’s match against West Ham United, it now has an almost unbreakable one.
The Reds got goals from Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bracketing halftime to skate past the Hammers 2-0 at London Stadium to go 19 points clear at the top and deepen the hosts’ relegation worries.
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West Ham looked solid on the break, but they made too many individual errors to overcome against such a dominant side. It could have been even more, but Salah hit the post with 12 minutes to go and West Ham continued to wilt as the clock continued to tick down. The Hammers’ closest effort was a near own-goal from Trent Alexander-Arnold who luckily struck his own post in the second half.
The Reds no longer have their game in hand, but it certainly feels like they no longer require it. With 14 matches remaining, Liverpool has only dropped a staggering two points all year and certainly feels poised to put forth a historic campaign, whether it be unbeaten, a record point total, or both.
Three things we learned
1. This Liverpool squad is bigger than any one player
So far Liverpool has navigated this season brilliantly despite a number of injuries and fitness concerns to various players. Alisson has missed time, numerous defenders such as Joel Matip and Alexander-Arnold have spent time on the sidelines, and the midfield has been shuffled constantly. Yet the attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah remained largely untouched outside of the occasional rest. So without Mane, it was interesting to see how the Reds approached a game against a clearly inferior opponent in the absence of their most consistent attacker.
It didn’t matter. Divock Origi filled in expertly, Salah put in a solid 90 minute shift, Andy Robertson played well with an increased attacking role down the left, and Mane was hardly missed. This Liverpool team is something else, stacked to the gills with top talent.
2. West Ham can snatch enough games to stay up
West Ham didn’t fare too well against a suffocating Liverpool press, but they showed enough of a threat to be a problem for worse sides. At least, enough to steal some games, earning enough points in the process. It won’t be comfortable and they have a lot of individual errors to sort out, but they should be resilient enough to see out the growing injury list and remain in the Premier League.
3. The Premier League has yet to adjust to Jurgen Klopp
The Liverpool boss has yet to face a significant challenge this season. His project at Liverpool has blossomed to fruition, and so far everyone is powerless to stop it. Each week the German tweaks his game plan, but overall the Reds have done the same thing all season and have yet to face a sustained test. After the game, Oxlade-Chamberlain said that at halftime they “weren’t satisfied” with the first 45 minutes of play despite a 1-0 lead, which goes to show the perfection Klopp expects week-in and week-out. The Premier League will need to adjust to Klopp’s tactics soon, or else this Liverpool side can truly build into a sustained dynasty.
Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah
West Ham stayed plucky on the break to start, with Manuel Lanzini coming close with a long-ball opportunity over the top but Alisson snuffed it out. Andy Robertson came closest for Liverpool in the opening half-hour as he was threaded through by Mohamed Salah, but he scuffed it just wide from a tight angle under pressure from Lukasz Fabianski. Minutes later Robertson was there again, but his cross for Origi was just too driven, inches out of reach of the Dutch striker.
Liverpool found its breakthrough in the 35th minute as Divock Origi was felled right on the doorstep by Issa Diop, a clumsy last-ditch challenge that survived a VAR check. Salah stepped up to the penalty spot and buried the chance to put the Reds in front.
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After halftime, West Ham looked bright, but it all came undone quickly as a Hammers corner kick came to nothing and Liverpool made them pay for the ensuing scramble. Salah found an opening and fed a delightful outside-of-the-boot pass to a streaking Oxlade-Chamberlain down the middle. The Liverpool midfielder shrugged off a weak Lanzini challenge and stayed true to put Liverpool 2-0 up.
The Reds nearly had a third past the hour mark on a low drive from Origi, but Fabianski got down to his left to stop the effort. They were then let off at the back a few minutes later when Declan Rice picked up a bad turnover in the Liverpool defensive third and marauded forward, unleashing a curler that Alisson parried and then Trent Alexander-Arnold looked to put behind for a corner, instead smacking the post on what was nearly an ugly own-goal.
Mohamed Salah struck the left post with a first-timer on 78 minutes as Liverpool continued to assert its dominance.