Liverpool 19 points clear after Salah and Oxlade-Chamberlain sink West Ham

Liverpool secured another three points with a 2-0 victory at West Ham that took them 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League

The day is nearing when, if he were so minded, Jürgen Klopp could copy his strategy for FA Cup replays and hand the rest of Liverpool’s league season to their second string. Games in hand are only an advantage if you win them and this one was ultimately negotiated in comfort, confirming a 19-point lead that only a wild-eyed fantasist would deem surmountable.

Nineteen points ahead; 23 wins from 24; all 19 Premier League teams defeated at least once. They are statistics that will swill around for the rest of this week but they should not dull in the telling, even if the figures are likely to grow yet more jawdropping in the months to come. Liverpool did not please Klopp with this display and they certainly laboured in the 35 minutes before Mohamed Salah put them ahead from the penalty spot. The number of mistakes that crept in, even once Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had doubled the lead, was enough to afford Alisson the platform to remind everyone that his excellence underpins the imperturbable machine that ploughs on in front of him. But none of it mattered too much: West Ham were allowed their moments, but this is emphatically Liverpool’s season.

“I’m only happy about the three points,” Klopp said. “We could have done a lot of things better. We could have passed better and defended better. These boys have played outstanding football throughout the season. Tonight was a normal performance.”

Liverpool’s version of normal tends to be enough. They took time to find their bearings, with Klopp admitting that West Ham’s 5-4-1 setup made life awkward. “A very important element of football is countering the counter but for that you need the other team to have counterattacks,” was how he put it. They had come particularly close only through Andy Robertson, whose clipped effort was chaperoned away from goal by Issa Diop, in the opening half-hour but then Salah was granted the chance to hold his nerve.

The opportunity arose when Roberto Firmino, finding the elements of time and space that had hitherto been lacking, did admirably to keep Trent Alexander-Arnold’s near-post cross alive. He duly threaded the ball across to Divock Origi, who had come in for the injured Sadio Mané, but the forward still had plenty to do given Diop and the 19-year-old debutant, Jeremy Ngakia, both stood in his way.

Jeremy Ngakia takes on Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson on his West Ham debut.
Jeremy Ngakia takes on Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson on his West Ham debut. Photograph: Stephanie Meek/CameraSport via Getty Images

Origi attempted to wriggle between them and was stopped when Diop, wafting out a leg, tripped him on the six-yard line. It seemed needless in such a tight area but Jonathan Moss’s award of a penalty was confirmed at length by VAR, which decided Firmino should not be penalised for what appeared to be a touch with his hand in the buildup. Salah sent Lukasz Fabianski the wrong way and the die was cast.

Seven minutes after half-time, Salah delightfully assisted Oxlade-Chamberlain. Much to David Moyes’s frustration, the move came about when a West Ham corner landed straight on to the head of Virgil van Dijk.

They were unable to deal with the second ball in midfield and this time Liverpool had their counter. The home side were caught ahead of the play and Salah, weighting a sublime pass with the outside of his left foot, sent his teammate bursting through. Oxlade-Chamberlain shrugged off the attentions of Manuel Lanzini and finished slickly.

It was a particularly grim night for Lanzini, who should have equalised several minutes earlier but instead scuffed Robert Snodgrass’s cross weakly at Alisson. The Argentinian’s substitution, in the 69th minute, was cheered. Dispiriting moments like that have become this stadium’s stock in trade but Moyes knows West Ham, who face a potentially far more telling assignment against Brighton here on Saturday, need all the help they can get at this point.

“[Lanzini] is arguably one of our best players, if not our best player,” he said. “He has had a bad injury and what I need is for the supporters to be right behind him because we need him. At the moment he is our flair, he is our person that might make the difference.”

Mo Salah fires home from the penalty spot to open the scoring at the London Stadium.
Mo Salah fires home from the penalty spot to open the scoring at the London Stadium. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Even if Lanzini could not extend Alisson, a first-time effort from Snodgrass drew a fine one-handed stop and, towards the end, a tip-over from Declan Rice’s header was genuinely breathtaking. There was also a moment of slapstick when Alexander-Arnold hammered against his own upright; fortunately for Liverpool, they could afford to get those moments out of their system.

“These boys I rely on,” Klopp said. “I would give them my kids to take care of them, so I trust them 100% in these situations. They still make these ridiculous mistakes. It’s nothing to do with motivation, it’s staying concentrated when you are constantly in charge. That is so difficult.”

Salah clipped the woodwork himself in those dying moments; one of the night’s more obscure statistics was that he had not scored in his previous nine games in London, but he grew stronger as this one progressed. Those who had travelled in support are well used, by now, to success in the capital and virtually everywhere else. “We’re going to win the league, and now you’re going to believe us,” they sang, but any moment of epiphany came long ago.


Nick Ames at the London Stadium

The GuardianTramp

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