Hammers v Liverpool

Despite a spirited late fight-back that saw Spanish loan signing Kepa Blanco score with his first touch in a claret and blue shirt, West Ham United were left still searching for their first Premiership win of 2007 as Liverpool snatched a 2-1 victory.

In an entertaining clash at Upton Park, the visitors struck twice in the space of seven minutes at the start of the second half, before Kepa stepped off the bench to pull one back in the 77th minute and give his new team a glimmer of hope.

Unfortunately, though, Alan Curbishley's men couldn't find the second breakthrough late on to stop Rafa Benitez's team claiming their ninth victory in the space of 10 league games, and were left still desperately trying to claw their way out of the bottom three.

Once again, the Hammers boss had been unable to name an unchanged back-four for the visit of the Merseysiders, as Lucas Neill's ankle injury meant Jonathan Spector switching to right-back, with Calum Davenport - cup-tied against Watford - returning to partner Christian Dailly in the centre of defence.

In midfield, Yossi Benayoun replaced Shaun Newton after recovering from a minor knee injury, while Marlon Harewood returned from suspension in place of Bobby Zamora, who was joined on the substitutes' bench by Kepa.

Liverpool, meanwhile, made two changes following their last competitive encounter - a 2-0 victory over reigning Premiership champions Chelsea - as Sami Hyypia and Craig Bellamy returned in a 4-3-3 formation that saw the Welshman supported by Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch in attack.

And it was the lanky England striker who found himself on the end of the game's first opportunity, when he latched on to a pass from Bellamy after just six minutes, but was denied in the penalty-area by a well-timed challenge from the covering George McCartney.

Despite the early scare, though, the hosts managed to find some defensive solidity for the remainder of the half and restricted Liverpool's three-pronged strikeforce to just a couple of hopeful long-range efforts.

Hammers' first shot of the night came in the 33rd minute, when Reo-Coker's hopeful 40-yarder was comfortably gathered by Reina, but the effort at least lifted the Upton Park faithful - desperately hoping for some attacking inspiration from their team.

It arrived just moments later when Harewood cut in from the left before unleashing a blistering 25-yard effort that was flying towards the bottom corner of the net until Reina somehow flung himself across goal to tip the ball round the post. Amazingly, though, referee Martin Atkinson didn't spot the save and awarded only a goal-kick.

Boa Morte then forced Reina into another fingertip save, his angled free-kick almost catching the Liverpool keeper by surprise, while Benayoun went close on the stroke of half-time, receiving a return pass from Cole and flicking an effort with the outside of his right foot that Reina held.

As the two sides walked off the pitch at the interval, it was the Hammers fans who were in more positive mood and, having seen their team secure memorable 1-0 victories at Upton Park over Arsenal and Manchester United already this season, beginning to believe that another big-name scalp might be on the cards.

Sadly, within just 11 seconds of the restart, reaching that target looked an unlikely possibility, as Liverpool took the lead in stunning fashion. Straight from kick-off, Crouch gained possession on the left and then cut inside before slipping a square pass to Kuyt, who let the ball run across his body before firing a fierce 25-yard effort beyond Carroll and into the net off the underside of the crossbar.

Just seven minutes later, it was 2-0, as the visitors carved their way through with a superb five-man move that saw Riise eventually cut the ball back for Crouch to power a first-time effort past Carroll from the edge of the penalty area.

Moments later, Bellamy almost made it three with a neat turn and shot that flew just inches past the post and, sensing that they had nothing to lose, Hammers then began to throw caution to the wind, as Cole and Reo-Coker both came close to breaking through and pulling one back, while Harewood had a decent shout for a penalty turned down when he was bundled over by Riise.

After seeing his team turn the tide slightly, Curbs then added some impetus to his attack, introducing Zamora for Cole in the 74th minute, and then Kepa for Harewood two minutes later. Just seconds after entering the fray, the pair then combined to grab Hammers a lifeline, as Zamora escaped down the left and slipped the ball across for Kepa to net with a poacher's finish.

The 23-year-old Spaniard showed plenty of enthusiasm and bravery as his team fought to drag themselves level and, with the 34,966 crowd at last warmed up by a spark of inspiration, it appeared that a memorable comeback might be on the cards.

Sadly, though, the equaliser failed to materialise, and Curbs and his men will now look to produce a winning performance on their travels when they visit Aston Villa on Saturday, prior to crucial battles against our fellow relegation strugglers Watford and Charlton…