The scenes at the final whistle said it all. An explosion of noise from most of those in attendance while, in front of them, those in claret and blue celebrated and sighed in relief in equal measure. It had been that sort of game for West Ham – tough, challenging, nerve-racking but ultimately glorious. Little wonder David Moyes took his time departing down the tunnel, the Scot milking the applause and rightly so, for this is a manager reborn in charge of a team that continues to soar.
Indeed, this was not only West Ham’s first league victory over Liverpool since January 2016 but one that saw them leapfrog their opponents into third. They’re also level on points with Manchester City and only three behind leaders Chelsea, and while the idea of Moyes’s men qualifying for the Champions League and even challenging for the title may seem far-fetched, it simply cannot be ruled out given their form and performances. That’s now five league wins in a row for West Ham and, in their own ways, each has been deserved.
Here they were forced to show great togetherness and resolve against opponents who dominated possession and territory, and carried a goal threat right to the death. The hosts were forced on to the back foot but as has been typical of them for some time now they did not wilt, while going forward they yet again showed craft and guile, unsettling Liverpool on the counterattack and twice piercing them with what has become a formidable weapon: set pieces.
For Liverpool this was a chastening afternoon, halting their unbeaten run at 25 games and bringing into sharp focus the defensive frailties that threaten their hopes of winning prizes at home and abroad. This was the sixth occasion this season that they have conceded two or more goals, and while that resulted from a collective slackness there was a standout figure: Alisson.
The Brazilian was a central presence for all three West Ham goals, most strikingly the first given it was an own goal on his part. Only four minutes had been played when Pablo Fornals swung a corner into the six-yard area and Liverpool’s goalkeeper made a mess of clearing it with his left arm, the ball grazing off his thumb and drifting into the net.
Liverpool’s players protested to the referee, Craig Pawson, insisting Alisson had been fouled by Angelo Ogbonna as the pair jumped together. There came a VAR check and it was decided there had been no foul on Ogbonna’s part.
Not that Jürgen Klopp saw it that way. He was immediately incensed by the decision and reiterated that stance afterwards, insisting Ogbonna “hits Alisson’s arm” as they rose and therefore prevented him from making clean contact with the ball. And that was not the end of the German’s ire in regards to the officiating.
Five minutes later he was left raging with Pawson for not sending off Aaron Cresswell for his challenge on Jordan Henderson, with the West Ham left-back catching the Liverpool captain on the knee of his standing leg as he manoeuvred down the right flank. It definitely could have led to a red yet, incredibly, after another a VAR check, a foul wasn’t even given.
A sense of injustice permeated through the visitor’s ranks and they channelled it by taking full control of proceedings. After 41 minutes they got the equaliser their efforts deserved via a wonderfully executed free-kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold from the edge of the area, the ball curling over the wall and into the top left-hand corner of the net.
It was a blow for West Ham so close to half-time, especially given they had also lost Ogbonna after 22 minutes due to a cut to the centre-back’s right eye resulting from being accidentally caught by Diojo Jota’s elbow. But they did not feel sorry for themselves and, come the second half, found not only a second wind but also further gears.
The hosts continued to sit deep but now they were pouring forward on the counter, in the process unsettling Liverpool and establishing the platform for a barnstorming victory. Jarred Bowen and Fornals were especially excellent and it was that pair who combined for West Ham’s second goal on 67 minutes, with Bowen charging forward after the hosts had overturned possession in midfield and playing in Fornals, whose left-footed shot too easily went through the grasp of Alisson.
Cue raucous cheers among the home fans, with the volume turned up even further when Kurt Zouma made it 3-1 on 74 minutes with a far-post header from Bowen’s right-sided corner. Alisson scampered across in an attempt to block the ball but got nowhere near it. In the process, West Ham had also scored their sixth set-piece goal in seven games.
Liverpool kept coming forward and scored again on 83 minutes after Divock Origi, on as a substitute, sent a low drive past Lukasz Fabianski. A comeback suddenly felt on and looked to have been completed when Sadio Mané met Alexander-Arnold’s cross with a diving header that sent the ball past Fabianski and seemingly into the far corner of the net. But it instead went wide and, soon after, West Ham had secured a triumph that sent this venue into rapture.