Old boys take centre stage in Upton thriller

 

West Ham 2 Liverpool 2:Jonjo Shelvey was the only Liverpool player to celebrate a goal at Upton Park and as well he might. Cast in the role of the false nine, as his club arrived in London without a recognised striker, due to the suspension of Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini’s injury, Shelvey compensated for his lack of comfort as the line’s leader with old-fashioned blood and sweat.

His reward was glorious. Shelvey will struggle to claim the winning goal, as the crucial touch came off the West Ham United defender James Collins, but he was the central figure from a Liverpool perspective when the substitute Jordan Henderson flashed in his 79th-minute cross.

Shelvey supported West Ham as a boy and his goalscoring team-mates, Glen Johnson and the substitute Joe Cole, began their careers at the club. They did not celebrate their goals, which were of the highest class, particularly Johnson’s, yet Shelvey basked in his moment, perhaps feeling a release of frustration.

It was the final act of what Sam Allardyce, called a “bizarre” game. The West Ham manager noted that Liverpool matches were normally tight and without Suarez, the club’s goalscoring talisman, this one would surely be more so.

“I certainly didn’t expect two ex-West Ham players to score for them,” Allardyce said. Or, maybe, the Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard to give the home side a half-time lead with the first own goal of the game.

The winning goal, Allardyce said, was “freaky” yet the disappointment of the defeat was compounded for him by the loss of Mohamed Diame. Diame had thrilled with his rampaging runs from midfield but he felt his hamstring snap on 73 minutes and collapsed in agony.

West Ham conceded the decisive goals after Diame’s departure but they had been advertised, as Liverpool, composed upon the second-half restart, had taken a grip on proceedings. Stewart Downing created chances for Raheem Sterling and Shelvey before Cole took Sterling’s pass and finished with ice-cool confidence.

His first League goal since April of last year would have been enough for the headline writers but Shelvey helped to trump him and secure a big win for Brendan Rodgers.

Creative void

Suarez’s absence had overshadowed the buildup but the outstanding Johnson seemed intent on filling the creative void. The right-back pushed high up the field at the outset to worry Matt Jarvis, West Ham’s covering winger, who was more comfortable in the attacking third. Johnson’s goal was stunning, banged in unerringly with his right foot into the far top corner from the edge of the area.

Sterling missed a glorious chance for 2-0, after Johnson had beaten Jarvis to cross, but West Ham fought their way back. The game turned for the first time on West Ham’s penalty. Guy Demel’s rasping shot struck Joe Allen’s outstretched arm, and Mark Noble clinically converted the penalty.

Things got worse for Liverpool when Gerrard, under no real pressure, misdirected an attempted clearing header and watched the ball loop beyond his own goalkeeper, Pepe Reina. Liverpool, though, regrouped and the second half was theirs. So were the points. Guardian Service

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