Reds Prove Too Hot for Hammers to Handle
By Tom Dowsett
Thursday 30 Jan 2020 18:13:00
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Before Wednesday night's encounter in Stratford, West Ham United were the only team not to have lost to Premier League leaders Liverpool this season. Unfortunately that record disappeared after a 2-0 defeat.

David Moyes made two changes from the team that faced Leicester City in their last league match, as Lukasz Fabianski had recovered from injury and replaced Darren Randolph in goal, while youngster Jeremy Ngakia was given his first-team debut in place of Pablo Zabaleta, who dropped to the bench.

After a quieter than usual transfer window for the club, speculation was rife on Monday night that Czech attacking midfielder Tomáš Souček was close to signing, meaning he would be only their second January capture.

The deal is a loan until the end of the campaign with an option to buy and the player was presented to the home fans before the action got underway.

Both teams had played three games in the past week but West Ham knew that they might be in for a difficult night but to be fair to the home team, they weren't without their chances.

A great team move involving Robert Snodgrass and Arthur Masuaku ended when Manuel Lanzini sent the ball wide but it wouldn't have counted if it was on target, as the linesman raised his flag for offside.

Ngakia was making a real impression on his debut and he tested Alisson Becker early on but the visiting goalkeeper was able to claim both his inviting crosses.

Although Jürgen Klopp's men weren't at their best when they were on the ball, due to their height and strength, it was difficult for West Ham to win back possession when they had lost it.

Thirty five minutes had passed with the match still goalless but Liverpool were given the chance to edge ahead when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Divock Origi by Issa Diop. Before referee Jonathan Moss blew his whistle for the penalty to be taken, VAR checked for a possible handball by Roberto Firmino but it was quickly established that this wasn't the case. 

Fabianski saved the last spot-kick he faced in the home encounter with Leicester City on 28 December but Mohammed Salah gave him no chance of saving this one and instead sent him the wrong way.

The hard-working Irons fashioned an opportunity before the break but Mark Noble's 25-yard volley failed to trouble Becker.

It was a far better first-half performance compared to Saturday's FA Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion for the Hammers and they were probably glad to only be a goal down at the break.

Liverpool reemerged from the dressing rooms just in front of the hosts but it was West Ham who again started on the front foot and had a great chance to equalise. A cross from Declan Rice found Lanzini but unfortunately, the Argentine was unable to control allowing the Reds stopper to gather.

There was then end-to-end action as Fabianski made a superb save to deny Firmino before West Ham lost possession from their own corner and Klopp's men were able to break. The lapse in concentration proved costly as Salah played in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who kept up his impressive record of scoring every time he has so far visited Stratford, giving the returning goalkeeper no chance.

The Hammers applied further pressure and nearly reduced the deficit when Lanzini set up Snodgrass but the Scotsman saw his shot beaten away by Becker.

Moyes was pleased with the determination his side were showing and they tried their luck again when Snodgrass found Angelo Ogbonna. Unfortunately for the Italian though, his header went over the top.

Lanzini had endured a difficult game by his usual high standards and he was replaced by Pablo Fornals on sixty nine minutes.

The Spaniard certainly made an impact as he started the counter-attacking move that saw Rice having a decent effort saved by Becker.

Minutes later, both teams contrived to hit the post. Trent Alexander-Arnold was fortunate not to gift the East Londoners a way back into the game, while up the other end, Salah was within inches of sending the Reds home with a 3-0 win but it wasn't to be.

Rice, who was one of very few shining lights against the Baggies at the weekend, had another excellent chance to pull one back here but Becker produced another outstanding save.

The Hammers will hope to hand Souček his debut when they play host to Brighton and Hove Albion in what is now a crucial game for them on Saturday afternoon.

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