The ability of Liverpool’s attack and momentum that, even on a day when Jurgen Klopp’s side were not at their best, they cruised to victory over West Ham and move into second in the Premier League. The trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were all on the score-sheet once again as David Moyes’ long wait for success at Anfield was taken into another season.
Liverpool’s forward trio, who were all on target in the Champions League rout of Porto last time out, took the team’s tally to 103 goals for the season in a second-half performance that demolished any hope that West Ham harboured of levelling Emre Can’s first-half header.
Moyes’ plan was to defend in numbers and use the polished link-up play of Marko Arnautovic, Joao Mario and Manuel Lanzini on the counter-attack. It succeeded to a degree before the interval, with Liverpool often contained and unnerved when the visitors broke, but was swatted aside as Klopp’s team took control after the restart.
Salah almost claimed his 31st goal of the season after 140 seconds when James Milner carved open the West Ham defence too easily with a pass into Roberto Firmino. He squared for the Egypt international who stepped inside James Collins and shot low to Adrian’s left. The goalkeeper’s fingertips turned the ball onto the inside of the post and Pablo Zabaleta mopped up the danger as West Ham were reprieved.
Minutes later Virgil van Dijk headed straight at Adrian from a Milner corner and at that point it seemed Anfield was set for another Liverpool onslaught. Last-ditch defending and an impressive display from Arnautovic delayed it, although their defence was eventually breached by a set-piece when Can headed home Salah’s corner at close range.
The Germany midfielder misplaced several headers but not the one that mattered, and that was Liverpool’s 100th goal of the season. Can also rose above Patrice Evra to open the scoring. The 36-year-old was making his West Ham debut having had his contract terminated by Marseille and was booed throughout by a home crowd that continues to blame him for Luis Suarez being banned for racial abuse.
Klopp’s team were not averse to the long ball in trying to get behind West Ham quickly. Salah and Sadio Mane both steered headers over while Adrian saved from Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold but Liverpool did not monopolise the first-half opportunities.
Arnautovic was a fraction away from opening the scoring when he broke clear of Joel Matip and chipped Loris Karius from the edge of the penalty area. The ball appeared destined for the top corner until the Liverpool goalkeeper managed to superbly flick the Austrian’s effort onto the crossbar. Arnautovic then combined with Lanzini inside the area and his cross fell invitingly for Pablo Zabaleta at the back post off the head of Robertson. The veteran steadied himself but volleyed across Karius’ goal and wide.
Karius denied Arnautovic for a second time when West Ham’s biggest threat shot from distance and the ball swerved towards the roof of his net. The travelling contingent had cause for encouragement at that stage. They also continued their protests against the club’s owners while sporting commemorative T-shirts to mark the 25th anniversary of Bobby Moore’s death. But within minutes of the restart their hope had evaporated.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain engineered Liverpool’s second of the game with a determined run that was brought to a halt by a Cheikhou Kouyate challenge, only for the ball to roll on to Salah off the midfielder’s boot as he tumbled. Liverpool’s leading goalscorer took one touch to make space for himself inside the box then cut a left-footed shot back across goal, through the legs of Aaron Cresswell and inside the far corner with Adrian stranded. Number 31 and counting.
Liverpool’s third arrived shortly afterwards as the wind and weak West Ham defending helped Firmino to his 13th Premier League goal of the season. The goal stemmed from an Adrian free-kick that held up in the Anfield breeze. Mario attempted to control but was easily dispossessed by Can who swept an inch-perfect chip into the unmarked Firmino. The Brazilian side-stepped the onrushing ‘keeper and calmly converted into an empty goal.
Firmino released Robertson overlapping down the left and the full-back delivered an inviting first-time cross for Mane to flick the ball over Adrian and in off the post.