The talking points from Anfield on a night where West Ham United came close to earning a point against Liverpool in the Premier League, but fell to a 1-0 loss to Jurgen Klopp’s side
West Ham United’s five-match unbeaten run came to an end on Wednesday evening with a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.
A first half header from Darwin Nunez proved to be enough for Jurgen Klopp’s side to seal three points, with Hammers forward Jarrod Bowen missing a glorious chance to equalise from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time, being denied by Alisson from 12 yards out.
As West Ham suffered defeat for the first time since their 1-0 loss to Everton at Goodison Park a month ago, here are some of the major talking points from a narrow defeat to the Reds.
Undefeated run ends
After a five-game unbeaten run this month that included four wins against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Anderlecht (twice) and Fulham, and a draw at Southampton, West Ham were narrowly beaten. Although at times in the first half, 1-0 would have very much flattered the Irons.
Following early promise shown by David Moyes’ side, Nunez first unleashed a superb effort on the half volley that forced an outstanding Lukasz Fabianski save before heading in at a Kostas Tsimikas cross just minutes later.
From then, Liverpool went full hammer and tongue until West Ham won their penalty. Mohamed Salah came close on three occasions, while other chances were forced to be dealt with, leaving West Ham’s defence well-worked before the game reached its halfway stage.
A flick from Flynn Downes sent Bowen off in the box and the four-time England international positioned himself well to draw a foul out of Joe Gomez, eventually given by VAR. At that time, it felt West Ham’s only way back in the game was if Bowen converted from 12 yards; he did not.
However, in the early phases of the first half, West Ham showed that defensive mistakes were possible in Liverpool’s defence when pressed, which the Hammers made a point of doing more in the second half, setting a precedent that gave everyone hope, even more so when Said Benrahma came off the bench shortly after the hour mark.
Fabianski did have some work to do, but really, many of the late chances were from those in white and orange. First, Gianluca Scamacca attempted a shot on the angle after good work on a counter attack. Benrahma then teased a volley on goal off a looping Declan Rice cross, but Alisson held it well.
The best chance, and the one that led to Moyes falling to the floor in despair, came late on when the ball was bounding around the box, Bowen somehow managed to cut the ball back and Tomas Soucek’s effort from point blank range was denied only by Alisson’s hip.
From the resulting corner, Scamacca blazed a header way over and given the way West Ham played in the final third, they can feel frustrated that they left Anfield empty handed, especially at missing a penalty and Soucek’s chance, that seemed destined to go in.
Jarrod Bowen’s penalty miss
After Rice saw a penalty saved at Nottingham Forest in August, Bowen was made the club’s penalty taker and before kick-off, had done well from 12 yards, netting in home wins over FCSB and Fulham earlier this season.
However, the former Hull City ace found his effort saved by Alisson, a height favouring the home goalkeeper, who only had to guess the right way to be able to save, which he did.
From five penalties this season in all competitions, West Ham scored three, netting both in the Europa Conference League via Bowen and Lanzini, while Bowen has scored in the Premier League, with Rice and Bowen missing from the spot in the league already this term.
In his career, Bowen has scored six out of his nine penalties (66.7%) and has netted a third of his career spot-kicks this season, with a third of his misses coming on Wednesday evening.
West Ham did create chances for themselves, particularly late on, but Bowen’s from 12 yards felt as if it was the one where Moyes’ side really should have found the net.
Lucas Paqueta’s absence
Brazilian star Lucas Paqueta was absent from the squad due to a shoulder injury, a blow to add to the absences of Maxwel Cornet (calf), Nayef Aguerd (ankle) and Craig Dawson (dead leg).
His absence meant that West Ham played in a 4-3-2-1 formation, with Downes partnering Soucek and Rice in midfield and Pablo Fornals joining Bowen and Gianluca Scamaaca in attack.
In his pre-match media, Moyes described Paqueta’s injury as “serious” and remained tight-lipped on the issue after the game. However, on Instagram following the result, Paqueta said that is expecting to be out of training for only two weeks.
While it essentially rules him out featuring against Manchester United in 10 days’ time, it does mean he is set to be back in time to play in West Ham’s final games before the World Cup takes place in Qatar, with Paqueta set to be part of the Brazil squad.
Fortunately, while he will miss Old Trafford, he is set to also miss games in the Europa Conference League against Silkeborg and FCSB, games he was always unlikely to feature heavily in.
A glimpse of the two strikers
Against Southampton on Sunday, Moyes was booed when Michail Antonio replaced Scamacca late on, with fans hoping to see both of them play together late on in search of a winning goal.
This time aiming for an equaliser as opposed to a winner, Antonio came on in place of Downes, with the club’s two recognised strikers playing together for only the second time this season for the final 16 minutes.
There was one moment that saw both link-up on the counter attack. After being picked out by Thilo Kehrer’s pass, Antonio was unmarked on the halfway line and found himself leading a charge. To his right, Scamacca was making a run and Antonio laid it off.
When getting down the right, Scamacca found himself on a tight angle, while Antonio was in a better position. Instead of passing it back, Scamacca went for goal and was nowhere near testing Alisson, leaving Antonio fuming.
The duo have only played 29 minutes together so far in a West Ham shirt, with one normally replacing the other in matches, but for now, it looks a fair way off being a potential strike partnership.
Flynn Downes’ full debut
Paqueta’s absence led to a full league debut for former Swansea City midfielder Downes, playing alongside Rice and Soucek in the heart of midfield.
Considering it was his first start, it came at Anfield and he had just two league minutes to his name before kick-off, he got 74 minutes and gave a performance which pleased many, including Moyes.
Said Benrahma’s effect
There was a sense of deja vu watching the game, with there being quite a few similarities to the side that won 1-0 away at Aston Villa back in August.
In both games, Moyes started with a three-at-the back but to little effect. At Villa, it was 0-0 at half-time before Benrahma replaced Emerson on his first start for the Hammers, with West Ham changing from a 3-4-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1. Against Saints, it was a similar outcome, although this time, Benrahma’s introduction came in the 59th minute and with the Hammers 1-0 down, although it did not stay that way for long.
His introduction added more balance to the side, although in fairness, Moyes’ options in team selection were limited due to the defensive issues at bay, with Kurt Zouma (illness), Craig Dawson (dead leg) and Nayef Aguerd (ankle) all absent, while Angelo Ogbonna (hamstring) was only deemed fit enough for the bench.
Benrahma’s arrival was a game-changing one. Within five minutes, Rice had equalised, with Benrahma heavily involved in the move, carrying the ball down the left, holding it, linking up with Aaron Cresswell before exchanging with Rice prior to his equalising goal.
The former Brentford man injected pace into the side, but more importantly, allowed Moyes to go back to 4-2-3-1, his trusty formation that clearly seems to get the best out of his players, a risk however with it leading to a centre-back pairing of Ben Johnson and Thilo Kehrer.
The left wing spot in the team is definitely up the grabs. Maxwel Cornet had limited chances before suffering a calf injury and Pablo Fornals was an unused substitute in the draw with Southampton. Benrahma will hope that his display will have earned him a start away at Liverpool on Wednesday night.
David Moyes’ frustrations
In his post-match press conference, Moyes aired his frustrations over two major incidents, stating that VAR official Simon Hooper “should go to Specsavers.”
The main talking point from the game was the build-up to Saints’ opening goal. When attempting to clear a long throw-in from Kyle Walker-Peters, Tomas Soucek did not get a good connection on his clearance and as Jarrod Bowen went follow it up, referee Peter Bankes was stood in his way, with Bowen unable to get back, Perraud shooting and scoring, via a deflection.
Moyes was livid that the goal was not disallowed and was further incensed when he felt Soucek should have had a penalty after being grappled in the penalty area at a corner by Perraud, with Moyes labelling the incident as a judo move.
Both decisions went in favour of the hosts, much to Moyes’ frustrations, perhaps the luck being balanced out somewhat, with there being serious question marks over all three of West Ham’s goal in their win over Fulham last weekend.
Double injury blow
A major blow came before a ball had been kicked at 1pm when it was confirmed that both Zouma and Dawson were absent.
Although it is unlikely that either of them are set for long periods on the sidelines, missing both of them at the same time is a massive blow, with their rekindled partnership this month leading to wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham this month, the only two games they have started together all season.
With Nayef Aguerd (ankle) still sidelined after a pre-season injury, Dawson and Zouma doubts for the midweek trip to Liverpool and Angelo Ogbonna suffering a hamstring issue, numbers are really short at centre-back at present.
It is the same issue Moyes had at the start of the season before signing Kehrer. Dawson and Ogbonna were sidelined and Issa Diop was on his way out of the club, leaving Zouma as the only available centre-back for the opening games of the season prior to Kehrer’s arrival.
Lukasz Fabianski’s importance
While decisions went against West Ham, they have an awful lot to thank goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for, who really kept the Hammers from going behind by a few goals in the first half.
The Polish stopper made seven saves in the game, six of those before half-time, with West Ham really struggling to deal with Saints’ attacking qualities after going a goal down in the first half.