A late goal from substitute Diogo Jota saw Liverpool grind out an unspectacular 2-1 victory over West Ham United at Anfield.
After trailing 1-0 to a Pablo Fornals goal for the visitors, the hosts rallied and leveled through a Mohamed Salah penalty near the half time mark. Then, after a double change from manager Jurgen Klopp, Jota — after an assist from fellow substitute Xherdan Shaqiri — cooly fired home the winner. It was an insipid showing, but, as ever, the three points is what matters most for the defending champions.
The Reds started the game with a quick approach, but — for all their interplay — failed to muster a shot to capitalize on their territory and possession.
West Ham, on the other hand, were poized to play on the break and it was through this manner that they opened the scoring.
Fornals, with the first move of any substance in the game, wrapped a shot past Alisson after Joe Gomez’s weak header from Arthur Masuaku’s cross fell to the Spaniard at the edge of the box.
The Reds were shunted into action by the concession of the goal and were inexplicably denied a penalty when Sadio Mané was upended in the box by Aaron Creswell. Jordan Henderson also made it moot seconds later when he narrowly struck a low shot past the post.
After upping the tempo and playing with more urgency, the hosts were awarded a penalty five minutes from the break. An arching ball found Mohamed Salah one versus one with Masuaku at the far post and the left-wing back felled the Egyptian with a mistimed tackle. Dusting himself down, Salah fired his spot-kick low and true and beyond Lukasz Fabianski.
A dreary half ended with the Reds struggling to prize open the deep sitting Hammers.
The second period started in a similar manner, with the hosts lacking tempo and incision. It was West Ham that had the best early opportunity when Sebastian Haller’s flick on caused pandemonium and Fornals’ shot in the box was blocked by Andrew Robertson.
Liverpool needed fresh legs to add impetus to a stale showing and the introduction of Xherdan Shaqiri and Jota –replacing Roberto Firmino and Curtis Jones, who were both ineffective throughout — brought that element in spades.
The duo almost made an immediate impact when the Swiss winger found Jota with a neat pass and the Portuguese internationals cross forced Fabianski to save from Mané. From the rebound, the former Wolves forward tapped in but the goal was correctly ruled out after Mané fouled the Polish keeper, as confirmed by VAR.
Jota didn’t have to wait long for a goal, however, as he was the beneficiary of a beautiful reverse ball from Shaqiri. Running onto the pass in the box, the winger stood up Fabianski — making him commit — before confidently firing home at the near post. Liverpool’s number 23 made a similar contribution against Midtjylland midweek and his assist was ultimately the winning of the game.
Liverpool Team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Phillips, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mané.
Replacements: Milner for Salah, Shaqiri for Jones, Jota for Firmino