Frustration returns to dog Liverpool at Anfield
West Ham help survival bid by earning valuable point
Liverpool's Luis Suarez shoots at goal during the Premier League match against West Ham at Anfield. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
Liverpool 0 West Ham 0: The howls of frustration around Anfield as Luis Suárez sent a corner straight out of play and Glen Johnson ran into another blind alley encapsulated another story of torment for Liverpool. For West Ham United, however, there was only immense, justifiable satisfaction as they edged closer to Premier League safety.
A fine defensive display brought Sam Allardyce's team a hard-earned point on Merseyside and reward for a performance that, while on the back foot throughout the second half, showed the discipline, intelligence and even attacking intent that has often been absent on West Ham's travels this season. Only Reading had lost more away games in the Premier League this season but this was a mature offering out of context with the side's travelling form.
Liverpool controlled possession in the first half but the clearer chances fell to West Ham, who were resilient in defence and supported Carlton Cole in sufficient numbers to trouble the home defence.
Allardyce's game-plan succeeded in frustrating Liverpool, who often had the right ideas in possession but not the execution to match, and his only complaint was the careless finishing that prevented Mohamed Diamé and Cole from giving the visitors an interval lead.
The contest was preceded by a minute's silence for the victims of Hillsborough ahead of the 24th anniversary of the disaster on April 15th, a tribute impeccably observed by both sets of supporters.
Brendan Rodgers elected for the same starting line-up that won at Aston Villa, meaning a second week on the bench for Daniel Sturridge, and Philippe Coutinho opened in the same menacing fashion as last Sunday to force Jussi Jaaskelainen into an early save.
Joey O'Brien escaped with a trip on Glen Johnson just outside the West Ham area as Liverpool prospered down the right too, but it was the visitors who should have opened the scoring when Diamé weaved his way into the area from a corner. The powerful midfielder evaded five half-hearted challenges to leave himself with a clear sight of José Reina's goal but, with the hard work done and the exuberance rising, he blazed over from close range.
Cole should also have found the target when Kevin Nolan dispossessed Lucas Leiva on the edge of the Liverpool box. The forward, replacing the ineligible Andy Carroll, had Reina's full goal to aim for but managed to find Daniel Agger's midrift instead with a sliced effort.
Suárez combined superbly with Coutinho to test Jaaskelainen from an acute angle but it was not until first-half stoppage time that Liverpool created a clear opportunity. West Ham were incensed when the referee Anthony Taylor awarded a corner following a superb James Tomkins's tackle on Suárez and almost with good reason as their goalkeeper parried the set-piece onto Sturridge, who had replaced the injured Stewart Downing on 25 minutes. Jaaskelainen made amends with a vital block at the far post.
Liverpool displayed far greater intent, energy and threat in the second half to force West Ham into constant retreat. Fortunately for the visitors, in James Collins and particularly Tomkins they had two central defenders in commanding form.
Guy Demel diverted Steven Gerrard's low cross over his own goal from a yard out with Sturridge primed to pounce, Tomkins made a superb goal-line block from the Liverpool captain and Suárez grazed the far post having beaten Tomkins to the by-line and drilled a shot through the legs of Jaaskelainen. Sturridge did find the net when he turned Jordan Henderson's scuffed drive into the bottom corner but was adjudged offside. Replays suggested otherwise.
Taylor riled Anfield when he ruled that Coutinho had fallen too easily when grabbed on the shoulder, while clean through, by Demel. Tomkins was guilty of a similar collapse following a touch inside the Liverpool area from José Enrique.
The West Ham centre half also sparked penalty screams from the Kop when Gerrard attempted to cut inside his challenge, although the referee correctly called that Tomkins had just connected with the ball.
Further Liverpool chances came and went from Coutinho, Agger and Gerrard before, with five minutes remaining and Gary O'Neil floating a West Ham corner into the area, Anfield thought it had suffered another late blow. The substitute Jack Collinson headed beyond Reina but Lucas's knee came to Liverpool's rescue on the line.