90mins+

Hammers’ Harmful Hammering!

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A game of destiny this. For both coaches, this was a match of immense significance. Poor Slaven Bilic, the West Ham United gaffer has been gasping for breath all season; indeed the sledgehammer has been hovering over the embattled Hammers’ boss following his poor, uninspiring start to the season. The Croatian’s story of the season has been simple and pathetic — 6 losses in 10 games. Little wonder his cuisine is on every pundit’s menu these days. And for our Liverpool juggernaut, the pressure is beginning to mount — a win here, a loss there, two draws in between is certainly not what the Anfield faithfuls bargained from Jurgen Klopp this season. So, the German definitely not cutting the mustard at the moment.

Both teams got into the groove from the start — not a moment for pussy-footing early on.

Andrew Ayew should have scored for the Hammers early in the 7th minute, the Ghanaian unlucky to see his chip over Simon Mignolet just brushed off the woodwork. The Liverpool goaltender, characteristically dilly-dallied in his decision-making — came out for the ball a few seconds later than expected.

West Ham looked the better team in the opening few minutes with Manuel Lanzini, Ayew and Chicharito pulling the strings in the final third. Chicharito’s foray had him clipped in the 12th minute by Joel Matip for an obvious infringement on the Mexican, but referee Neil Swarbrick was uninterested. The Hammers were really putting up a display not a reflection of their current status — a bunch of lollygaggers.

But Liverpool took a bold step and scored in the 20th minute — for what may pass for against the run of play for many. The Hammers just had a corner kick, Liverpool’s clearance fell to dangerman Sadio Mane, who raced towards goal like a deranged bull, in hot pursuit on his right was Mohamed Salah. Mane spotted his partner in offence, laid the pass to the Egyptian, who made no mistake. Poor Joe Hart. His defenders left him to his own devices having gone AWOL for the ill-fated corner kick.

Three minutes later, it was pain again for the Hammers. Corner Kicks were becoming their scourge, as Joel Matip scored the Reds’ 2nd goal from a poorly defended kick in West Ham’s vital area. Klopp’s troops were now emboldened. The two goals — in quick succession — appeared to have deflated Bilic’s troops; as the Reds looked more confident and relaxed on the ball. West Ham’s link-up was beginning to wane.

The Hammers managed to maintain the status quo till the end of the first 45. Fans were quick to express their displeasure at the spineless team. Boos for Bilic. More games, more problems for the Croatian.

Second 45 minutes kicked off with Andy Carroll replacing Edmilson Fernandes. And just as even little kids know there’s sugar in every confection, we always knew that Liverpool were vulnerable at the back. And their vulnerability was quickly exploited when Ayew and Lanzini combined to reduce the deficit in the 55th minute. However, while the celebrations were still loudest, hapless Hart was picking the ball from his own net at the other end as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored less than 60 seconds after Bilic’s hopes were raised. Pity! It was 3-1 in favor of Klopp and his lads. The Hammers’ gaffer, in desperation, withdrew Mark Noble for Marko Arnautovic in the 6th minute.

But Liverpool were firmly in control, Roberto Firmino had a glorious chance in the 69th minute to unplug the power cable to West Ham’s life support machine, but the Brazilian shot wide from close range. You could feel Bilic’s heartbeat pumping fast and heavy — Koeman, Shakespeare, Frank de Boer on his mind. In a desperate move, looking for respite wherever he could fine one, he threw in Diafra Sakho for Chicharito with 18 minutes left on the clock.

But it was Salah who was smiling for the second time in the game as the Egyptian scored his 2nd and Liverpool’s 4th of the day to hammer in the final nail in the Hammers’ coffin. The goal came in the 75th minute off a Mane assist who made way for James Milner a minute later. Firmino and Oxlade-Chamberlain equally substituted for Dejan Lovren and Dominic Solanke.

Poor Bilic! Another loss, more pain and misery. Bet he’s waiting for that phone call or email to put him out of this weekly anguish. It’s now a question of when, not if…

 

West Ham United Vs Liverpool (6:30pm) : Saturday November 4, 2017

By Uche Atuma

About Uche

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