West Ham United 3-2 Liverpool
West Ham United leapfrogged Liverpool and moved up to third in the Premier League table with an impressive 3-2 win at a raucous London Stadium.
Ending a demanding period of seven fixtures in the space of 22 days across three competitions unbeaten - a splendid feat in itself - Pablo Fornals’ breakaway goal and Kurt Zouma’s first West Ham goal were enough to see the Hammers come out on top in an open-ended second half after Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick had cancelled out Alisson Becker’s own-goal early in the first half.
Divock Origi pulled a goal back late on for Liverpool, but West Ham deserved the three points for an awesome show of character which resulted in them inflicting a first defeat on the visitors in the Premier League this season and end Liverpool's unbeaten run of 25 games prior.
Results seldom come more impressive, nor do atmospheres - the backdrop to an instant Club classic.
Manager David Moyes had described the Reds as the most in-form team in world football prior to kick-off, but after riding out an early storm, it was West Ham who drew first blood.
Fornals’ accurate long ball over the top allowed Michail Antonio to break and win the first corner-kick off the tracking Virgil van Dijk. Crowding goalkeeper Alisson Becker on the goal-line, a host of West Ham players – led principally by Angelo Ogbonna – attacked the Spaniard’s in-swinging delivery.
But such was the whip and elevation on Fornals’ cross, it sailed over both Ogbonna and Alisson – who upon review it transpired had got a weak fist to the ball – and nestled into the far corner of the net.
Video Assistant Referee had the chance to address Liverpool’s appeals for both a foul and a handball – and VAR duly turned both down.
Having bravely vied for the ball in the build-up to the goal, Ogbonna’s commitment came to the fore minutes later when he twice sustained heavy challenges making important tackles on Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota. Despite battling to carry on, the Italian needed to be replaced after the latter incident, with Craig Dawson his replacement after 22 minutes.
After the early stoppages had halted the game’s rhythm, it was Liverpool who picked up the pace – and dominated the possession – before half-time, but another impressive rearguard effort was limiting their chances.
Jota had the best of them, looping a header land onto the top of Lukasz Fabianski’s netting when well-placed, but centre-back partnership Zouma and Dawson seemed to be getting their heads to everything as the visitors worked a variety of angles to deliver from.
It was going to take something special to beat them – and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold provided it moments prior to half-time, curling an inch-perfect 25-yard free-kick over the wall and into the top corner after Salah had shifted the ball.
The Hammers’ next assignment, with six additional minutes to be played, was seemingly to get through to the interval unscathed, Dawson putting in one particularly important challenge after Sadio Mané looked to shoot from a pocket of space between the lines.
And for half a second, it even looked as if Antonio was about to enjoy a clean run through on goal after an excellent pass from Said Benrahma set free the No9. The striker had some distance to carry the ball, and sadly took an errant touch on the edge of the box at a vital moment – the danger dissipating instantly.
Deep into injury time, another half-chance for the Hammers. Alexander-Arnold missed Declan Rice’s diagonal ball and Benrahma had space to attack at a tight angle. The Algerian squared for Jarrod Bowen, but a superb recovery tackle from Van Dijk – at full stretch on the slide – blocked the No20’s near-post effort.
And so it was at all-square the two sides reached half-time – a fair reflection perhaps not in terms of possession or territorial dominance, where Liverpool were on top, but unquestionably their commitment.
Four minutes into the first half, West Ham took the lead through a corner kick. Four minutes into the second, only the woodwork denied West Ham from repeating the trick.
Fornals once again delivered towards a crowded six-yard area, both Rice and Dawson rose above their markers to attack it; on first glance, it was the captain’s header who struck the top of the bar and glanced over; on second, it was Dawson who could feel unfortunate not to have scored.
Up the other end and an impressive first-time volleyed cross from Robertson gave Mané the chance to sidefoot a finish from the penalty spot, but – thankfully – the finish was straight at Fabianski.
Salah had his first meaningful effort on goal soon after, blasting over on the half-volley from near the ‘D’ after Robertson had stolen the attention of the West Ham defenders, before Benrahma overcooked a cross from a promising position.
Moyes’ men were enjoying much greater offensive momentum in the second half and worked two deep free-kicks well, the first seeing Dawson head into the ground and straight at Alisson, the latter requiring a committed clearance from Joel Matip under pressure from Bowen.
Rigorous in his defensive work, Ben Johnson provided an insight into his confidence with a low blaster from 30 yards, one which ultimately dragged wide of the upright.
If the first goal were to be taken away from Fornals upon video review, West Ham’s second was certainly his – a just reward for their increased attacking momentum in the second half.
The goal owed so much to the positivity and persistence of Bowen, who picked up the ball near the halfway line, span and charged at three Liverpool defenders, creating space for Fornals to run into. Bowen looked up and poked the ball through to the Spaniard.
The No8 has made a knack of scoring against Liverpool since sporting Claret and Blue and although his left-footed strike wasn’t the cleanest of efforts, it still managed to squirm beneath Alisson and trickle over the line – his third goal in five games against the Reds.
Jota thought he had equalised moments later when Alexander-Arnold picked him out at the far post, but the Portuguese found – instead – side-netting with his downwards header.
As Liverpool pressed forwards, space was opening up, Antonio robbing Fabinho of the ball and – in similar fashion – poking in Fornals, but this time the Spaniard was flagged offside, seconds after seeing his shot saved by Alisson.
Antonio then posed Van Dijk another problem with a similarly positive run, winning yet another corner – and based on recent evidence, the Claret and Blue Army roared in the knowledge of how those so often go.
Bowen’s delivery was on the money into the six-yard box, Zouma was unchallenged at the far-post to head home his first goal since joining in the summer – and the Hammers, notching their sixth set-piece goal of the season, were 3-1 up and, like the bubbles which engulfed the east London air, flying.
But Liverpool provided a timely reminder of their quality to set up a nervy finish with seven minutes remaining, substitute Origi turning and firing a bouncing volley into the bottom corner when the opportunity seemed a half-chance at best.
As the clock ticked into injury time, Liverpool missed a gilt-edged chance when Mané stooped and – somehow – headed Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick wide when it seemed easier to score.
West Ham United had done it – a memorable victory, crafted by an indefatigable squad and manager and forged in the fires of east London.
The 59,909 supporters in attendance will talk about this game for some days – nay, years – to come.
West Ham United: Fabiański, Johnson, Zouma, Ogbonna (Dawson 22), Cresswell, Rice (c), Souček, Bowen (Coufal 84), Benrahma (Masuaku 86), Fornals, Antonio
Subs: Areola (GK), Fredericks, Diop, Král, Noble, Lanzini
Goals: Alisson 4 (o.g.), Fornals 67, Zouma 74
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Matip, Robertson, Fabinho (Minamino 80), Henderson (c), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Thiago 69), Salah, Diogo Jota (Origi 76), Mané
Subs: Kelleher (GK), Williams, Tsimikas, Konaté, Phillips, Morton
Goals: Alexander-Arnold 41, Origi 83
Referee: Craig Pawson