Midfield woes, Alisson blunders and missed chances: Liverpool bruised as West Ham end unbeaten run
It was the moment which best summed up a miserable afternoon for Liverpool.
The clock showed 88 minutes. Jurgen Klopp’s side, down but not yet out, were looking to pilfer an equaliser against a West Ham team which had reverted to a flat back six in order to preserve its precious lead.
Jordan Henderson, the Reds captain, picked up possession well into the Hammers half, and looked to feed a pass out to Andy Robertson, hovering out on the left wing.
It was a straightforward pass, five yards at best, but Henderson got it wrong, the ball trundling harmlessly out for a throw as he and Robertson looked at each other blankly.
It was that kind of day.
Liverpool’s long unbeaten run is over. Had they avoided defeat at the London Stadium, they would have set a new club record of 26 games without a loss in all competitions, ensuring their place in history in the process.
It proved a bridge too far, Klopp’s team crumbling in the face of a solid second-half assault from Moyes’ men, who move above Liverpool in the Premier League table as a result.
The home side deserved the points, given to them courtesy of an early own goal from Alisson Becker and then quickfire strikes from Pablo Fornals and Kurt Zouma in the space of seven second-half minutes.
The visitors had hit back through Trent Alexander-Arnold’s sublime free-kick before half-time, and ensured a nervy finale through a fine late strike from substitute Divock Origi.
They may complain about the manner of West Ham’s opening goal, which had a suspicion of handball and/or a foul about it, and the fact that Aaron Cresswell was lucky to avoid a red card for a wild early challenge on Henderson, but they can have no complaints about the result. The Reds got what they deserved.
For once, the international break may be welcomed at Anfield. A chance to refresh and recharge, to ease a few more players back to fitness and to take stock of a hectic few weeks.
One result should not shake their confidence or belief. They are very much in the title race, and very much in the Champions League picture too, but Klopp will know there is a lot of improvement to come from his side, who have now dropped five points in the space of eight days to fall adrift of leaders Chelsea.
Their insipid second-half against Brighton was followed by a lacklustre showing here, with the quality of Klopp’s midfield again drawn into question.
Injuries are not helping, with Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, James Milner and Harvey Elliott all absent here, and Thiago Alcantara fit enough only for a 20-minute cameo. But if we should have a degree of sympathy in that regard, the decision not to sign a direct replacement for the indestructible Gini Wijnaldum looks worse with each passing week.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the man in the chair against West Ham, handed his first league start since the opening weekend of the season. The former Arsenal man had done well against Atletico Madrid in midweek – albeit against 10 men – and has good memories of this ground having scored his first Reds goal here in 2017, but his performance did little to suggest he is anything like the answer for Klopp, in the short, medium or long-term.
He was not the only one to struggle. Alisson will not look at any of the three West Ham goals with any great pride, while Robertson endured a frustrating afternoon.
Mohamed Salah, the league’s top scorer, was kept quiet, while Sadio Mane missed a gilt-edged chance to pinch a point in stoppage time.
At the end, West Ham’s bench celebrated while Liverpool’s gritted its teeth.
Work to do, and improvement needed, if that Premier League title is to make its way back to Anfield come May.