Gerrard spot kick brace beats Hammers

West Ham United 1-2 Liverpool
Barclays Premier League

Steven Gerrard scored a brace of penalties as Liverpool maintained their title charge with a controversial 2-1 victory over the Hammers at the Boleyn Ground on Sunday.

The Liverpool skipper's winner came 20 minutes from time after Adrian was adjudged to have fouled Jon Flanagan in the box, despite getting a hand to the ball as the left back looked to go around him.

The favourable calls did not all go Liverpool's way though, as West Ham's equaliser through Guy Demel drew a furious reaction from the visitors, who were sure Andy Carroll had fouled Simon Mignolet in the build up.

What was indisputable was that West Ham had given Brendan Rodgers' side a terrific game and they pushed them all the way to threaten their now nine-game winning run.

Liverpool came into the game as the division's top goalscorers and it did not take them long to go close in this contest, as Luis Suarez sent a dipping 30-yard free kick a foot over Adrian's crossbar.

The visiting forwards did not have it all their own way in the opening stages, however, as the Hammers' graft all over the pitch denied Liverpool the space to truly hurt them.

That said, Suarez was inches away from scoring a 20th minute opener with a wonderfully improvised clipped effort, which floated ove Adrian and bounced to safety off the Hammers' crossbar.

Seven minutes later Phillippe Coutinho shrugged off Matt Taylor's challenge at the edge of the box and fed Suarez, whose shot was blocked en route to goal by James Tomkins' head.

The next time the pair came face to face however, a minute before the break, Liverpool took the lead. Referee Anthony Taylor made the first of two big calls in a minute, penalising Tomkins for handball after the Reds striker tried to play it past him in the box. Gerrard buried the penalty and it looked as though Liverpool would take a lead to the interval.

The Hammers had other ideas and levelled in stoppage time, with referee Taylor again at the centre of controversy. Carroll challenged Migonlet in the air from Mark Noble's corner and as the ball fell from the Belgian's grasp, Demel was there to poke in.

Taylor saw nothing wrong with Carroll's challenge, and after a lengthy chat with assistant referee Simon Burt, decided that his flagging for a foul was unneccesary.

The visitors were enraged and they looked to take it out on the Hammers at the start of the second period as they settled into a pattern of probing with possession around the Hammers box.

It was West Ham who fashioned the first clear chance after the break though, as Mo Diame stood up an inviting cross to the far post on 61 minutes with Carroll attacked with real power, but saw his header crash back off the crossbar.

At the other end Daniel Sturridge fired over the top after bursting into space just outside the box, and it was not long until the officials found themselves at the centre of attention once more as Taylor's second penalty award gave Gerrard the chance to restore his side's lead.

Left-back Flanagan won the spot kick after charging forward and drawing an attempted diving block from Adrian. The Hammers keeper clearly got a touch on the ball as Flanagan looked to go past him, but the contact between the pair was deemed to be a foul.

England skipper Gerrard again stepped forward confidently to make the most of the opportunity, beating Adrian's dive with a well-struck effort into the left hand corner of the net.

Suarez twice went close in the final ten minutes, poking an impudent chip onto the top of the bar and then drawing an excellent stop from Adrian after Raheem Sterling played him through.

It was Gerrard's brace of penalties which proved decisive however, as Liverpool withstood a stern examination from the Hammers to reclaim top spot.

West Ham United: Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Armero; Nolan (Nocerino 67), Noble, Taylor (Jarvis 78); Diame (C.Cole 84), Carroll, Downing
Subs: Jaaskelainen, J.Cole, Potts, Johnson,

Goal: Demel 45+2

Booked: Tomkins, Adrian, Nocerino, Armero

Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan; Coutinho (Lucas 46), Gerrard, Henderson; Sterling, Sturridge (Toure 85), Suarez
Subs: Jones, Aspas, Allen, Cissokho, Moses

Goals: Gerrard pen 44, Gerrard pen 70

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Attendance: 34,977