After a painfully long wait, a tour of a few northern Football League teams, another tour of the United States, and the battering of United and Napoli – Premier League football is finally back for Liverpool.
First up for the Reds is a new-look West Ham United at Anfield. I’ve taken a (rather tedious) look at the 137 games we’ve played against the Hammers and picked the five most memorable games.
Generally these are in no particular order, except for this one. This one is first because I need to get it out of the way early. I needed to include at least one of the 28 occasions that West Ham have managed a win, and this one is still, annoyingly, fresh in the memory.
AUGUST 2015 Liverpool 0-3 West Ham
Fresh off the back of a rotten year, Liverpool began the 2015/2016 season with three uncharacteristically solid defensive displays and three clean sheets. Things though, as they often did under Brendan, soon went tits-up. West Ham came to town and won 3-0.
Early Lanzini and Noble goals and a late Sakho coup-de-grâce, each scored after gratefully accepting the gift of individual defensive error, saw West Ham’s first win at Anfield since 1964. Coutinho was sent off for two bookings – the first of which, given for not retreating quickly enough from an opposition free-kick.
For Liverpool’s 63% possession that day, they mustered only a single shot on target. West Ham were, quite rightfully, lauded for an excellent counter attacking display, but honestly Liverpool were rubbish. It signaled the beginning of the end for Rodgers, who 6 games later, after one win in nine, was sacked. He was, of course, replaced by King Klopp. So all’s well that ends well, I suppose.
Another recent one. Although this game, in a few years, probably won’t go down as a classic, it has the pride of place on my list because it came at a time when bums were becoming a touch squeaky around the Anfield Road. We needed a win to ensure that qualification for the Champions League would remain in our own hands for the final game of the season.
MAY 2017 West Ham 0-4 Liverpool –
Game 37 in the Premier League and West Ham were on a run of five unbeaten, they had dispatched Spurs in their last game and looked good value to cause an upset here and do their London rivals, Arsenal, a big favour.
Enter Phillipe Coutinho. (Who’s crying? I’m not crying. You’re crying.)
The performance was excellent from the whole team, but the little magician (Magicinho?) did the damage and put the Hammers to the sword with two solo goals and a wonderful assist for Sturridge. The Reds enjoyed 67% of the ball that day, and from 26 attempts, hit the target 11 times – it was a pasting.
Origi’s late goal put the gloss on the scoreline and Liverpool entered the next game only needing a win against ‘Boro to ensure a place amongst the European elite the following year. This then led to last season’s stupendous run to Kiev, which doesn’t really need elaborating upon.
The next two entries take us back to either end of a decade which saw Liverpool win absolutely everything more than once – the 1980s.
MAY 1989 Liverpool 5-1 West Ham
During a season which will be forever remembered for the tragedy of Hillsborough, Dalglish’s Liverpool side were ending the year surprisingly well considering the heartbreak and injustice that had taken place only a month earlier.
The league campaign was extended by a few weeks due to the postponement of matches, and after beating Everton in the FA cup final, Liverpool had two more league games to cement first place and the double.
The penultimate game saw West Ham come to Anfield. The Londoners had spent almost the entire season in the bottom three and were staring an imminent relegation in the face. Liverpool needed a big win to ensure that Arsenal must produce a big win of their own on the final day when they traveled to Liverpool in the title decider.
An Aldridge goal had the game finely poised at 1-1 until the hour mark, when the ruthless Reds opened the flood gates. Houghton scored twice, Rush and Barnes turned the screw in the final ten minutes and West Ham were finally, almost mercifully, relegated. Arsenal went to Anfield a few days later needing to win by two goals and Micheal Thomas is a shithouse, pass it on.
MARCH 1981 West Ham 1-1 Liverpool
The League Cup final between a dominant Liverpool and a very good West Ham side was watched by a reported 100,000 people at Wembley.
It was a one-sided game with the Reds enjoying many of the clear cut chances. Phil Parkes, the man in nets for the Hammers, was playing like a man possessed, making glorious save after glorious save to keep the game goalless as it went into extra time. It remained this way until the 118th minute, when Alan Kennedy smashed home a clean half volley into the bottom corner. The West Ham defence were livid at the awarding of a goal that proved controversial as Sammy Lee, having hit the deck in the box, was in front of the keeper. They felt his presence impeded the ‘keeper and warranted the goal disallowed (Lee himself had a lovely effort ruled out earlier in the game for the same infringement). After consulting his linesman for half a second, the referee disagreed and Liverpool were well on their way to their first League Cup title. West Ham had other ideas.
A free-kick was awarded a yard outside of the Liverpool box for what would surely be the last kick of the game. A thunderous effort was palmed away by Clemence in true, immense Ray Clemence fashion. Corner kick, one last throw of the dice for West ham. It was swung in deep, Alvin Martin directed a towering header toward the far post. The ‘keeper beaten, Terry McDermott, taking one for the team, summoned his inner Luis Suarez to produce a Shilton moment and tipped the effort on to the bar. Penalty kick. Ray Stewart sends Clemence the wrong way and it’s off to Villa Park for the replay a few weeks later. Liverpool eventually won their first of a record eight League Cups courtesy of Dalglish and Hansen goals.
As is customary, I’ve saved the best until last.
MAY 2006 Liverpool 3-3 West Ham (3-1 on penalties)
Rafa Benitez took his heroes of Istanbul over to Wales to face underdogs, West Ham, at the Millenium stadium in the FA Cup final, and my God, was this a belter of a game.
West Ham took an early lead. Carra tried to play a back heel to clear the ball and made a pig’s ear of it, blasting home into the near post for an own goal. Seven minutes later, they were two-up, after Pepe Reina fumbled a routine save and gifted a goal to Dean Ashton. The Reds were struggling, who was the man to step up in their hour of need?
Who else but Steven Gerrard, of course.
Four minutes after West Ham’s second goal, Stevie picked up the balls inside the opposition half. He took a touch to steady himself and played an exquisite diagonal pass into the far post. Lord of the Manor, Djibril Cissé, found a yard of space behind Scaloni and hit a technically perfect volley low in to the near post to half the deficit.
Liverpool were dominant during the second half and capitalised on this as Gerrard himself grabbed the equaliser. Alonso played a long ball into the beanpole, Crouchy, who nodded it down with beautiful arrogance for Gerrard to half volley home an absolute howitzer into the top corner. A great goal, 2-2.
Liverpool pushed on, hoping to cash in on their momentum. They held possession well and carved out the odd half chance for the next 10 minutes, until Paul (he who shall not be remembered in Red) Konchesky scored the flukiest goal you will ever see in a cup final. I’m sick thinking about it so I shan’t dwell.
This knocked the wind out of the Redmen’s sails and the remaining third of the game passed without too many chances. Morientes headed wide, Gerrard found the stands with a free-kick, it wasn’t looking good. We resorted to the old Mourinho ball into the box from all angles, it wasn’t working. Until it did.
We entered injury time. Riise played a hopeful ball in from deep looking for Morientes, it’s cleared away. It was a good clearance. Gerrard, for some inexplicable reason is occupying a position 40 yards from goal. It bobbles out to the captain, who seemingly without even thinking, puts his right foot through the ball first time. Time itself seemed to slow down, the ball was static as it sailed through the air. It took an age to reach the goal and without touching the ground, nestled majestically in the bottom corner. Perfection.
Extra time saw attempts for both sides, Reina saved well from Reo Coker. Morientes, Cissé and Hyypiä all missed decent chances. But it was destined, in the spirit of this mental match, to go to penalties.
A combination of Reina living up to his tag as ‘penalty specialist’ and West Ham players being useless, meant the Hammers missed 3 of their 4 penalties (included Konchesky, whom karmic justice ensured took a pitiful attempt). Hamann, Riise and, of course, Stevie Gerrard all scored to bring cup back to Liverpool.
So whilst we are all pissing our pants in excitement at the start of the new season, grateful we are playing at home against a team that we are beating 12-2 on aggregate over the past three games, or worried because they have bought that Ukrainian bloke who is probably quite good; cast a thought back to the long history between the two clubs. Though we aren’t rivals, there have been a few belters over the years.
Having said that, I would take a boring 2-0 win any day of the week.
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