WHO would have thought that three former West Ham players would write the script and bring the 3 points back home to Liverpool from Upton Park? Before the game all the talk was how the team were going to cope without Luis Suarez, who was serving a 1 match suspension after receiving his 5th booking of the season against Southampton last weekend.
As expected Jonjo Shelvey was selected to play as the false number 9, to allow midfielder runners to join in the play further up the pitch.
I was dubious to Jonjo playing in this role as he has a tendency to get in the right areas but hesitates in front of goal and fluffs his chances.
Glen Johnson, who has a knack of scoring ‘wonder goals (regularly in this fixture), did so again. Johnson who was bombing forward down the right flank at will and went past Matt Jarvis as though he wasn’t there on numerous occasions. It was from one of these mazy runs that he banged in a shot unerringly with his right foot in to the far top corner from the edge of the area after 11 minutes. The euphoria surged inside him but he kept it there. As a former player he didn’t celebrate. He did admit after the game that he would of celebrated if it had been anywhere else.
Raheem Sterling missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0 after Johnson had beaten Jarvis again, to cross, but West Ham fought their way back. An unfortunate hamstring injury to Jose Enrique caused the impetus to swing in the favour of the Hammers. Brendan moved Downing to fullback and brought on Joe Cole which did get me scratching my head as to why he was coming on. Suso may have been a more attacking option to link in between the lines with Shelvey – how wrong was I.
Sadly it was again our own errors which lead to us going 2-1 behind. Firstly Joe Allen conceded a penalty for hand ball; Guy Demel’s shot struck Allen’s outstretched arm. It may have been harsh but you are running the risk if you put your arms up in the area (it is the fourth penalty which LFC have conceded this season), and Mark Noble showed no sympathy by scoring with a clinical low conversion. Then Gerrard unluckily misdirected an attempting clearing header which looped past Reds keeper Pepe Reina – it was the Carling Cup Final of 2005 o.g. all over again.
West Ham were buoyed by the half-time score and were confident considering that they had beaten Rafa’s Chelsea the week before (again, they were 1-0 down but won 3-1).
The turning point of the second-half and maybe of the whole match was the injury to Mohamed Diamé who left the game on a stretcher and is now missing for 3 weeks due to a hamstring tear. The balance of play shifted back in to our favour. The Reds needed to score two goals within the last 15 minutes of the game – something which we had not done all season; and like buses you get one, then another one arrives straight after.
The introduction of Henderson in the midfield for Lucas allowed Joe Cole to get in to the final third more freely. Sterling found the perfect deadweight pass for Cole who contrived an elegant shot in off the post to beat Jussi Jaaskelainen. Three minutes later Shelvey, once a West Ham youth team player and fan of his home town club from the cradle, would have the final say. Jonjo pressured Hammers defender James Collins to such an extent that he turned a ball sent in by Jordan Henderson into his own net. That didn’t stop Shelvey claiming the goal as he basked in his moment, perhaps feeling a release of frustration. He cavorted in front of the Liverpool’s fans, shaping his hands as a pretend pair of spectacles in his now trademark celebration (he is, apparently, the only member of his family that does not need glasses).
The reversal of fortune was now complete.
There is an invincible spirit instilled by Rodgers running through the team. A spirit that now has the team targeting better resourced clubs with deeper squads that are squandering points.
We have home games to come against Aston Villa and Fulham then winnable games against Stoke and Queens Park Rangers over the festive period. We are only four points off 4th place and could be in the top four mix by the time signings are made to strengthen the squad in January.
There are plenty of positives to take from Sunday’s result; a massive three points. Onwards and upwards now Reds let’s take the momentum in to Aston Villa on Saturday.
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