David Hautzig's Match Report
Liverpool 4, West Ham 0. The Season Starts Next Week!
My daughter starts college next Saturday. A few weeks ago she had to create her first academic schedule for this next step in her academic life. She wants to be a writer of some kind, and despite my obvious bias I think she will pull it off. She is already quite talented with the written word. But the other side of her brain, the one that handles things like mathematics, is a different story. It’s not as bad as mine, which borders on useless, but she enjoys math as much as a trip to the dentist. So as we looked at the classes with her, the first big decision was whether or not to get some of the requirements out of the way now or to jump into the classes she is excited about. She went for the former. So math, a language, and a science are on the calendar for the fall. But that means by this time next year, all of that is done and dusted. Never to be fretted over again.
Anfield is our algebra.
When the fixtures were leaked over a month before they were released and we saw this as the opening match, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. If we opened at home against Bournemouth, with the summer we have had the pressure would have been immense. Not that it won’t be next week, but I think it would have been worse. After today, a win next week will be significant.
It was no surprise that Liverpool came out of the blocks at full steam, and in the first minute the visitors had their first moment of anxiety as the ball rolled in front of Fabianski and needed Fredericks to clear. In the sixth minute, Alexander-Arnold sent a cross into the box that Fabianski met with a two fisted punch. A minute later Kaita started an attack at midfield, passed too Salah who then rolled a through ball to Firmino. A late touch from Antonio might have saved West Ham from going down a goal.
West Ham won a corner in the 14th minute, and while the delivery from Wilshire wasn’t anything to remember the buildup that won the set piece was a bit noteworthy. Anderson had the ball just outside the Liverpool box. A cross into the box was the obvious next step. Except it wasn’t. He slipped a pass into Arnautovic, which forced Gomez to adjust and send the ball out for the corner.
What felt inevitable finally came to fruition in the 19th minute. Kaita got the ball at midfield and started a run right at the center of the West Ham defense. He rolled the ball to Robertson down the left, and the left back sent a perfect cross in front of goal where Salah was waiting to tap it home.
West Ham 0
Five minutes later, Liverpool won a free kick 25 yards from goal after a tussle between Firmino and Noble. Alexander-Arnold curled the ball over the wall and Fabianski made a good diving save to his right. Moments later Kaita looked like the ball was super glued to his feet inside the West Ham eighteen yard box. It ended up with Wijnaldum, who sent a low shot just wide.
West Ham almost caught Liverpool asleep at the wheel a minute later when Ogbonna sent a Sam Allardyce special the length of the field. Arnautovic timed his run well, the ball sailed over Gomez, and Arnie was in on Allison. His shot was deflected out for a corner, and Balbuena came up to meet it. His header, however, was right at the new Liverpool keeper.
Liverpool should have doubled their advantage in the 38th minute when Firmino sent a low pass from the right side of the West Ham box right to Salah. But Fabianski spread himself well and got his body in front of Salah’s tap.
Just when it looked like West Ham would get to halftime only down one goal, West Ham completely….and criminally….shut down. Robertson crossed to Milner, who one timed it to Mane in front of goal to put into essentially an empty net.
West Ham 0
Pellegrini started the second half with Snodgrass in for Rice, and it was hard not to recall Rice being removed last season at Newcastle. I hope the gaffer let the youngster know it was tactical, not punitive.
West Ham won a corner in the opening minutes of the second 45, and Snodgrass sent a good ball to the near post for Anderson. The record signing flicked the ball to the far post for Antonio, but the man many expected to move across town couldn’t keep the ball down and it sailed over the bar.
Liverpool made it three in the 53rd minute when Firmino took the ball at the top of the box and fed it to Mane who turned quickly and slotted it home. Replays showed it should have been called back for offside, but without VAR those things will happen. Other than goal differential in nine months it likely meant nothing.
West Ham 0
Despite the score line, I thought Balbuena played well for his debut in England. In the 68th minute, Mane was in prime position for a hat trick. But the pass into the box headed towards Senegalese attacker was blocked by Balbuena for a Liverpool corner. A minute later another Liverpool set piece fell inside the box, this time for Gomez, but he couldn’t get his shot off and West Ham avoided further damage.
Chicharito came on for Arnautovic and Yarmolenko came on to replace Anderson, so it was good to at least see them get a run. Yarmolenko in particular showed he could end up being a handful in this league, and Snodgrass didn’t hurt the managers case for keeping him around. Little consolation, I know, but I got tired of writing Liverpool this and Liverpool that. They’re great. The sun is hot. I’m losing my hair. Whatever.
A friend of mine had a 4-0 scoreline in his predictor game. I doubt he was happy when Frederick’s lost Sturridge at the far post on a Liverpool corner in the 88th minute.
West Ham 0
So Liverpool scores four against us. Again. But let’s not forget one basic fact. And it is, indeed, a fact. Liverpool are one of the top five teams in the whole wide world. Klopp is three years into a project to make Liverpool the champions of England, Europe, or both. Pellegrini is one game in. I know we all know that. But it’s worth repeating, even if only for a momentary relief from what we just watched. My best mate Jon, who never thought Bilic deserved to go, texted me at 3-0 that today was just like Slaven’s trip to Anfield in 2015 only 180 degrees different. There was no need to reply.
I hope and believe Pellegrini and West Ham will reply en masse soon.