Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after West Ham United 1 Liverpool 2 in the Premier League at the London Stadium…
THEY called it The Big Nine. It is now the Big Six. And Liverpool played like big boys.
They played like grown ups. It is probably the most grown up win away from home this season. They started brightly, kept their heads when they could have lost them and then were ultimately better and smarter than their opponents. There was something deeply gratifying about it.
At half time, it felt like it should just be their day. And then it was.
Patience can be hard to come by. Faith can be hard to come by. I understand that wholeheartedly faith is deservedly in short supply this season, but Liverpool were patient and the key chance of the second half was likelier to be theirs.
It was one of those nights where you’re not sure everyone is seeing the same game. From our vantage point high up in the Olympic Stadium — so, so high up and so far from the pitch — the players seem to move around slower, less physical than when you are closer to the pitch. You can’t see the detail of the effort, the stretch of the muscle.
You can’t see that Liverpool are stretching West Ham. Liverpool are making them stretch every sinew. Declan Rice was excellent for West Ham United but he was mostly excellent in his own half, not in ours.
Jürgen Klopp (who in reality is very tall) looks tiny on the touchline, a combination of our height and the huge space between himself and the dugout.
From this height, you see shape. Everyone around me says how frustratingly narrow Liverpool seem, and this is true at times. But you can see how dominant Liverpool are in periods in keeping the ball in the opposition half. It is almost the best thing about this Liverpool today. They score enough goals to win. It is business-like. And they keep hold of the ball with just enough determination to win.
Cody Gakpo scores a marvellous goal in reply to Lucas Paqueta’s excellent goal. Both are good shots from distance, good choices of shots. The gaps were there for both and the strikes marvellous. Gakpo’s gets Liverpool back on top and he was excellent in tight spaces.
Liverpool regain their composure and sense. Diogo Jota should score to make it 1-2, but it takes a magnificent Virgil van Dijk touch to also retain parity. It is a gorgeous touch from van Dijk and he celebrates it like the goal it is.
His centre-back partner, though, has the telling contribution going forward and when West Ham finally get a plan to pin him and attack the space he stands strong. I am so pleased; Joel Matip has had a tough season and it could be his final season. He has been a brilliant servant and his header for the goal is unerring.
When on the break, Liverpool’s decision making is less good and what is likeliest to hurt them second half and when ahead is what happens after Liverpool lose the ball around the West Ham box.
Liverpool manage it and control it and see it out. The new shape and approach stands firm again. They deserve the points for their control and maturity. It may have looked like it lacked urgency from the gods, but the truth is Liverpool are all urgency, all certainty and desire.
They knew it was a big nine and have taken it on. This was amongst the biggest tests. Liverpool were convincing tonight, as far as I am concerned. Big six. Big three at Anfield.
In it together, yes? In it for all the right reasons, yes? In it for the joy and the laughs and because what else is there but this, yes? In it knowing they are all over it, yes? Yes to everything.
“Liverpool just pull themselves together and act like the better side. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that.”
“In a way, it’s the away game I’ve enjoyed most this season and that’s off the back of scoring six at Elland Road.”
🗣️ West Ham (A): Post-Match Show pic.twitter.com/or6pmeohEz
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) April 26, 2023