Manuel Lanzini

Liverpool goes 19 points clear with win at West Ham

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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.

McBurnie sees Sheffield United past West Ham

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At their best, West Ham United have produced quality play this season. At their worst, the Hammers have been punished. It was nearly the former, but the latter prevailed at Bramall Lane on Friday as lynchpin Lukasz Fabianski was lost to injury early in the match and his replacement’s error saw Oli McBurnie lead Sheffield United to a 1-0 victory.

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In off the bench, Robert Snodgrass seemed to have a late equalizer in stoppage time, but it was ruled out by VAR thanks to a handball on Declan Rice, reigniting debate about the new handball rules involving attacking players.

The win for Sheffield United sees the Blades move above Manchester United, Tottenham, and Wolves into fifth, while West Ham still remains in 16th, just two points above the relegation zone.


Three things we learned

1. Sheffield United is back to business

Not that they had anything to prove, but Sheffield United continues to produce scalp after scalp. After a short three-match winless run that began to produce doubt over their ability to maintain the cutting edge they showed throughout the first half of the season, the Blades got back to winning ways. They dominated the midfield for much of the game, and looked dangerous in the final third.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The Blades nearly came to rue some wastefulness on the near-goal by Snodgrass, but in the end they survived. Chris Wilder has been nothing but a pleasant surprise in the Premier League this season.

2. West Ham is doomed without Fabianski

It only took 38 minutes for West Ham to miss Lukasz Fabianski as David Martin‘s mistake gifted Sheffield United the game’s only goal. Fabianski has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the last two seasons, but this hip injury has kept him off the field in chunks. The Hammers have 15 points in nine games with Fabianski on the field, and just five points in 12 matches (including today, where he played just 15 minutes) without the Polish international. Sitting just two points above the drop, West Ham must improve between the sticks to survive.

3. David Moyes can’t afford to bench Robert Snodgrass

Robert Snodgrass appears back to his best, and David Moyes can’t afford to keep him on the bench. After a dry spell through November and half of December, the Scottish international appears back to his best, and West Ham will rue not having him on the field the entire match. Snodgrass was electric off the bench, and while Manuel Lanzini was creative at times, Snodgrass was consistently the team’s best attacking option down the stretch as they poured on the pressure.


Sheffield United was the better side for the first 15 minutes, and worked a great opportunity from a corner that saw John Egan head just over the bar. As the first half went on, West Ham built its counter-attack and worked a chance for Felipe Anderson who got by the Blades defense but scuffed wide left past a charging Dean Henderson.

One of the more influential moments in the match came 15 minutes in as West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski went down with a hip injury occurring on a goal kick, looking to be a recurrence of an injury he sustained earlier in the season. West Ham has been awful this season without Fabianski, and that proved important after the break.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The loss of Fabianski proving tragic for the Hammers after the break. Sheffield United went in front on 53 minutes as Fleck snatched away a bad David Martin goal-kick and fed Oli McBurnie for the opening strike. The goal came on the game’s first shot on target.

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Snodgrass was influential off the bench, and Sebastian Haller failed on a pair second-half chances to equalize – putting one of those in the back of the net but the offside flag scuttled the chance. Snodgrass appeared to have the decisive moment in stoppage time, with the ball in the back of the net, but VAR intervened. Declan Rice fed Snodgrass on the break in the 92nd minute, and while his shot was slowed by Henderson, it wasn’t stopped, trickling over the line. On replay, however, a clear handball off the arm of Rice saw the goal ruled out. While the decision was extremely harsh as Rice had no way of avoiding the unintentional touch off the head of a defender, the decision was consistent with the rules that prevent attacking players from handling the ball in the buildup to a goal not matter the circumstances.

Much-changed Leicester City wins at West Ham

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Ayoze Perez set up a pair of goals as Leicester City rebounded for a 2-1 defeat of West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday.

Kelechi Iheanacho and Demarai Gray supplied the goals for the Foxes, who move four points clear of third place Man City.

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Pablo Fornals scored for West Ham and under fire manager Manuel Pellegrini, whose side sits just one point ahead of 18th place Aston Villa.


Three things we learned

1. Rodgers rewarded for risky rotation: Brendan Rodgers changed nine men from the group embarrassed by Liverpool on Boxing Day, and the makeshift XI very much deserved the three points. Demarai Gray missed a penalty kick and a few other chances were left for dead, but overall the Foxes had every claim to the win.

2. Hammers a real relegation threat: Manuel Pellegrini’s defense has been woeful, and his star attackers couldn’t bail them out Felipe Anderson did assist on Fornals’ goal, and was lively on the left wing, but Sebastien Haller has not been able to sharpen his attacking acumen since an early season hot streak and neither Manuel Lanzini nor a trio of substitutes combined to deliver much threat.

3. Ayoze the assister takes the reins: Longtime Newcastle star Ayoze Perez is a mere component of the King Power Stadium attack. He drove the attacking bus on Saturday in the absence of Jamie Vardy and James Maddison, the latter replacing him in the 64th minute after assists on both goals. He was two for two on dribbles and drew three fouls in a very strong performance.

Man of the Match: Perez.


Lukasz Fabianski gave away a terrible penalty to Kelechi Iheanacho, but then made a save on Demarai Gray’s poor penalty to keep it 0-0.

Iheanacho put Leicester in front when Ayoze Perez made an athletic play to keep a ball in bounds for a near-post headed goal.

Gray then tore into a shot from 12 yards that was nowhere near the mark.

West Ham had a nice chance bound wide when Sebastien Haller’s header was off frame, and the equalizer came moments later through Fornals.

The Spaniard arrived on the scene for a Felipe Anderson cutback to cue the bubbles.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Gray made it 2-1 in the 56th minute, running onto a Perez through ball and curling around Fabianski.

Wes Morgan came close to making it 3-1 with a quick turn off a post-corner kick scrum, and Hamza Choudhury missed an 86th minute bid.

Ayew wondergoal completes Palace comeback v. West Ham

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Jordan Ayew‘s solo wondergoal won all three points for Crystal Palace in a 2-1 defeat of West Ham United at Selhurst Park on Thursday.

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Robert Snodgrass had put the Irons in front, but former West Ham man Cheikhou Kouyate equalized as all the goals came after halftime.

Palace moves 11th with 24 points, while West Ham slips 17th with 19 points.


Three things we learned

1. Ayew delivers a beautiful winner: The Palace forward joined Wilfried Zaha in being a proper threat, but his winner was all about him. The 28-year-old Ghanian cut toward the 18 and moved free with a spinning turn before using a delightful chip to leave Roberto pawing at air.

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2. Pellegrini’s inconsistent Irons put him at risk: Michail Antonio was strong and Sebastien Haller had moments atop the attack, but the Irons attack only managed a pair of shots on target. Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini came off the bench to decent effect, but certainly are nowhere near their top form. Irons boss Manuel Pellegrini must be at wits’ end.

3. Quality, not industry, denies West Ham: The Irons won more challenges — 28-14 in the air — and had more tackles, interceptions, and clearances. Some of those are down to Palace’s time with the ball, but it’s worth noting that for as poor as the Irons have been, they have not quit on Pellegrini.

Man of the Match: Ayew was phenomenal. He was everywhere, involved in 22 duels while completing 8 of 9 dribbles and making three key passes. The goal was the moment, of course, but it was the richly-deserved reward for a day worth of work.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Wilfried Zaha’s marvelous dribble down the left was deserving of an opening assist, but Palace’s right side didn’t run through the six to meet his pass.

Max Meyer found the loose ball and slid an invitation back through the box, but Jordan Ayew’s sliding effort went wide of the goal.

Ayew bossed Cresswell into a turnover but couldn’t rip a shot past Roberto.

The Irons went in front when Antonio created space and slipped through Snodgrass, who had the better of Patrick Van Aanholt and swerved home.

Van Aanholt nearly made amends but dragged his effort wide of the far post.

Kouyate equalized against his former club and declined celebration as the Selhurst Park faithful did plenty in his stead. Ayew popped a James McArthur cross onto the path of Kouyate for an unmarked finish.

Roberto denied Connor Wickham on a long solo run toward goal, a heavy touch defying the sub a wonderful moment.

Jaro Riedewald slid to deny Snodgrass’ 87th minute bid for a winner.

Ayew won it late with a classy maneuver into the 18 to dink over a fooled Roberto.

Premier League Preview: Southampton v. West Ham

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Saturday’s final Premier League fixture is set to pit a pair of underperforming relegation battlers against one another when Southampton host West Ham United at St. Mary’s Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBCSports.com). Managers Ralph Hasenhuttl and Manuel Pellegrini have each flirted with being fired in recent weeks, though the former was able to pull himself back from the edge with back-to-back wins last week.

Southampton had lost six of eight games during a two-month winless skid before beating Watford and Norwich City, both at home, to not only save the Austrain’s job but also pull his side to within touching distance of safety from the relegation zone.

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As for West Ham, Pellegrini is hanging on by a thread as he faces the possibility of being the next PL manager fired on the back of a 1W-2D-7L record in the Hammers’ last 10 games. To call that run of results — comprising more than 25 percent of the season — relegation form would be an understatement.

It’s not just the results which have been disastrous, but more so the margin by which they’ve suffered them. In those 10 games, West Ham have managed to conceded fewer than two goals only twice, including just one clean sheet. A number of bottom-half sides have found lots of joy against them: Newcastle United, Burnley, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal each scored three; Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers each score two.

Injuries/suspensions

Southampton: QUESTIONABLE – Stuart Armstrong (hamstring)

West Ham United: OUT – Manuel Lanzini (clavicle), Jack Wilshere (groin), Lukasz Fabianski (thigh), Winston Reid (knee)


Projected lineups

Southampton: Gunn — Soares, Vestergaard, Yoshida, Bertrand — Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Hojberg, Redmond — Long, Ings

West Ham: Martin — Fredericks, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell — Snodgrass, Noble, Rice, Anderson — Haller, Antonio


What they’re saying

Hasenhuttl, on his place as Saints boss: “This experience has been very important for me as a manager and I’m happy that I went through such a period. I’m thankful to the club that it is going a different way, not immediately sacking the manager but supporting him. Thank you to everyone at the club, I could feel big support in this moment, which is important for the future of the club. That was very important for me as a manager, I’ve never had such a long time without winning in my managerial career.”

Pellegrini, on his place as West Ham boss: “What I really need is to win the game but maybe I’m not in my job on Monday. That’s not a problem of the job. The problem is to try to improve what you’re doing because we don’t have the results. It’s a difficult league where the difference is very little between one player and the other one. I repeat it’s not normal to have five points and very bad results. That’s why I know that the owners trust what we are doing because with another owner you may have been sacked before, and we know what football is and we are trying to get results.”


Prediction

Given their medium-term form and the fact they’re playing at home, Southampton should be winning this game. If they’ve done one thing right all season, it’s that they’ve beaten the rest of the sides down near the relegation zone when they’ve faced them head to head. Whether or not West Ham will remain down there remains to be seen, and could be revealed based on what happens Saturday. Saints 2-2 West Ham.