Football Features

Liverpool 3-2 West Ham: Five things learned as champions-elect edge unexpected five-goal thriller

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:09, 24 February 2020

Liverpool continued their match towards a first championship since 1990 after running out narrow 3-2 winners in an entertaining game at home against West Ham.

Jurgen Klopp’s men were given a serious fright by an inspired Hammers team who you wouldn’t believe were in a battle to maintain their Premier League status.

Having gone behind early through Georginio Wijnaldum, the visitors from east London turned the game on its head, Issa Diop equalising moments later before Pablo Fornals put them in front early in the second half.

Mohamed Salah, registering his 15th goal of the 2019/20 campaign, levelled proceedings once again but any hopes of West Ham leaving Anfield with a share of the spoils were dashed nine minutes from time when Sadio Mane ensured a 26th win for the (surely) soon-to-be crowned English champions.

As we catch our breath, here are five things we learned from this pulsating encounter.

1. Manchester matched…

2019/20 has long been guaranteed to go down in Liverpool folklore. The relentless Reds show no signs of letting up and have now moved ever closer to becoming English football’s third ‘invincible’ team — after Preston North End (1888/89) and Arsenal (2003/04) — with this latest victory seeing them equal Manchester City‘s record of 18 consecutive Premier League wins on the bounce that was set between August-December 2017.

Another club from MCR matched this evening was Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary treble winners from 1998/99, that great Manchester United team — in a far more competitive season — finished that campaign on 79 points, with Klopp’s champions in waiting spectacularly reaching that figure with 11 matches remaining. The gap between them and Man City in second is an eye-watering 22 points.

2. …Shankly too

It’s not only those quality Manchester sides which this current Liverpool incarnation have pulled up alongside. This three points means they’ve now racked up 21 successive Premier League wins at home; during this run the Reds have bagged 61 goals and only conceded just 14, such form is only worth of admiration even if it’s frightening.

This matches the English top-flight record set all the way back in 1972 (between January and December) by none other than Bill Shankly’s own Redmen. The chances of them surpassing that feat is definitely on, but they have to wait until March 7 when Bournemouth come visiting.

3. An unbreachable fortress

David Moyes without doubt is not the most popular man at Anfield given he’s previously coached Liverpool’s two biggest rivals, Everton and Manchester United, very few gave his West Ham side a chance of leaving with all three points, and for another reason aside from the Hammers woeful form.

He’s never enjoyed his trips to the red half of Merseyside, even when coaching the defending Premier League champions (which just so happened to be his final game in charge of Man Utd), today was his 16th trip and Moyes — suffering a ninth defeat — can count himself unlucky not to leave with a point.

Unfortunately his number one goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański had a brain freeze at the worst moment, letting a non-speculative shot from Salah go between his hands drawing the Reds level before he was caught in no man’s land for Mane’s winner.

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4. Coming for the crown

Liverpool going in front before ten minutes were played wasn’t surprising, the source of their was somewhat kinda, not many had Wijnaldum as the Reds first scorer this evening but there he was to head Trent Alexander Arnold’s superb first time cross.

This was the full-back’s 11th assist of the season. He’d go on to add a 12th — equalling his own record for most goals created by a Premier League defender in a single campaign — late on for Mane’s winner which leaves him four behind Kevin De Bruyne in the race to become this season’s ‘assist king’.

Wijnaldum’s third league goal of this campaign, his first since netting in a 5-2 win over Everton, was the 14th time Liverpool registered a headed goal since last August, no team outmatches them in this regard with the aforementioned Toffees (11) the only other side to reach double figures.

5. No longer alone 

Issa Diop’s equaliser, from a Robert Snodgrass corner, in the 12th minute was stunning to say the least. His close range header, which bounced right in front of Alisson, leaving the Brazilian flat-footed, ended the Reds’ three-match clean sheet run and put him in esteemed company as Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk’s impressive central defensive partnership was breached.

He would stunningly be joined by Pablo Fornals in the second half, seven minutes after he came on. To put things in some perspective, since the game at Bournemouth on matchday 16 Gomez-Van Dijk have completed 12 league matches and conceded just twice across 1,080 minutes of football.

Before tonight’s efforts by Diop and Fornals it was only Wolves marksman Raul Jimenez in an elite group to have found a way through. The likes of Leicester, Spurs and Man Utd have faced Liverpool in that period but only the two W’s have breached Klopp’s seemingly impregnable rearguard.