Liverpool and West Ham United were involved in a physical game which ended with the scoreline favoring the Reds 2-1. The win meant that Liverpool were still unbeaten in 2014 and have now made it nine wins on the trot. Here are three things we learnt from the match:
1.West Ham United Dealt With Liverpool The Right Way
Everyone knew the Hammers were going to be a very tough place to visit, even for the Liverpool side which seems to be winning everything right now. Sam Allardyce is a master in parking the bus against counter-attacking teams and to be fair, when a team like Liverpool who thrive on counter attacks visit you, you have to do something to stop them.
Like it was expected, West Ham sat deep, forgot about possession and defended deep. They made sure Liverpool don’t get cost them on the grounds of cheap tactics. And to be fair, they didn’t. Liverpool did not find holes in the game to exploit. They could not thread through balls front the second third to the final third with the same panache or ease that they have, for most parts this season. West Ham did exactly what was expected and required out of them. Aston Villa did the same against Liverpool at Anfield in January and got a favorable draw. Its heartening to see that the mid-table teams are getting their tactics right against the table toppers, while the top 6 teams are having a tough time figuring out how to stop the Reds.
2. Refereeing Was Abysmal
And following the Premier League fashion, this match too had its fair share of controversial decisions. West Ham’s equalizer should not have stood, as acknowledged by Big Sam, and even the linesman had ruled it out. Simon Mignolet was fouled by Carroll in the box as the ex-Liverpool player waited to head the ball in from a Noble cross. Replays showed that his hand clearly make contact with the Belgian goalkeeper’s head and Mignolet lost the ball he caught (from the corner) which enabled Demel to pounce on it, and referee Anthony Taylor gave it as a goal. He saw his assistant flagging and ruling that goal out. Replays were shown on the big-screen in the ground and Liverpool players such as Luis Suarez asked the referee to have a look at the screen. Unfortunately, despite a conversation with his assistant, Taylor did not overturn his decision and the goal stood.
The second incident was Liverpool’s winning goal which Steven Gerrard converted from the spot, making it his second of the day (second penalty as well). This was a very soft one, if a penalty at all, as West Ham goalkeeper had a touch of the ball before bundling the Liverpool full-back down.
Both the managers were critical of the refereeing in the game and felt that decisions went against and for them. Sam Allardyce felt that something needs to be done regarding the refereeing decisions which cost teams time and again. He said:
“Unfortunately we are talking about the officials and not the game. There were fouls given by the referee when he was 60 yards away, the second penalty was not a penalty, Adrian plays the ball. Controversially we are talking about the referee and the effect he had on the game.He made big mistakes in the game. He thinks Adrian hasn’t played the ball and he has. He has to be 100% certain. He was in a bad position but gave it. It looked like Andy Carroll fouled the goalkeeper for our goal but we got it. We don’t want that, nobody wants that. My real concern is that we are talking about referees every week. We don’t have enough quality referees. They try their best but something has to be done about it.”
Brendan Rodgers too, felt that refereeing was not up to the mark on a crucial day:
“There were bad decisions both for and against us. He (Taylor) thought that the keeper had dropped it, but on reflection he’ll see that big Andy, with his physical presence, has disrupted our goalkeeper. Probably from that, maybe the referee was chasing the game a little bit.”
The under-par refereeing brings the same old questions into the fray. Do the officials have to be so stubborn to not have the audacity to overrule their decisions? Couldn’t Taylor have looked at the screen to see what happened and turned over his decision? Do we need more technology in football for the controversial decisions? Technology would help the referees and prevent from wrong decisions which might turn out to be season defining.
3. Flexibility By Rodgers Helping The Team Chase Title
Say what you want, Liverpool are putting their mark on every match they go into. Brendan Rodgers is figuring out ways to deal with each team effectively. If the Norther Irishman doesn’t get it right from the word go, he makes sure he is not stubborn with his tactics and asks for changes from the team at the interval. Today again, Liverpool started with the 4-3-3 formation, but seeing the high pressing and the bus parking by the London side, Brendan Rodgers asked his team to shift into the diamond formation in the second half. Lucas was brought on for Brazilian Philippe Coutinho and the substitution was effective. Rodgers wanted Lucas to give the his side more control and dominance in the midfield. Lucas 49 passes in the second half, compared to Coutinho’s 30. Lucas Leiva’s wonderful pass to Flanagan was the one that led to Liverpool’s winning penalty goal. Flanagan’s run was impressive and the full back seems to thriving on all the appreciation he is getting. However, the penalty awarded was very debatable as mentioned above.
Rodgers seems to be impressing everyone with his tactics on and off the pitch. The fact that he is ready to adapt, and change his side’s game and his own footballing philosophy in every game, is a very important factor in Liverpool’s rejuvenated season.
Liverpool are on a dream run, on this inexplicable high at the moment. The club has had 9 wins in succession. They currently lead the table with a two point gap over Chelsea. Manchester City, everyone’s favorites, are in the third spot- two behind Chelsea, but they have two games in hand and hence have every chance, mathematical and footballing, of climbing the top of the table. However, this game will give Liverpool all the confidence to go and get the win against City, who visit them next Sunday. The Anfield side has every chance of winning the game and it remains to be seen what tactic the Reds’ manager will employ to get the three points after a possibly league-defining clash next weekend.