Liverpool back on track

Posted by David Usher

Mamadou SakhoGettyImagesMamadou Sakho (back) scores Liverpool's second goal.

A week ago, Liverpool slipped to fourth in the table after an utterly abject defeat at Hull City. As is often said, however, a week can be a long time in football, and nine goals, six points and two wins later the Reds have somewhat surprisingly found themselves back in second spot. The failings of others have contributed to that of course, but Liverpool have certainly done their bit and the performance in the 4-1 win over West Ham United on Saturday was one of their most impressive displays of the season.

The Premier League table is suddenly looking quite healthy again from a Liverpool perspective. It would be looking considerably better if they hadn't lost at Hull, but the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea are helping to ensure such slip ups are not proving as costly as they might. For Liverpool to fully make up for last week's shock defeat they will have to pick up a win at one of the tougher venues they will be visiting over the next few weeks, but at least the home form is looking sound. It seems as though whenever a side from outside the top six or seven visits Anfield they leave having been hit for three, four or five. The away form is an obvious concern, but in front of the Kop at least, Liverpool are becoming increasingly prolific as both Norwich and West Ham will attest to.

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As expected, the Hammers came to defend and to hopefully nick something from a set-piece. Last season they had defended well and returned to London with a point following a goalless draw and as half-time approached in this one they were once again holding firm. Then Guy Demel unfortunately put through his own net and relieved some of the tension that was building in the crowd. That stroke of good fortune was no more than Liverpool deserved in truth, it's difficult when the opposition often has all eleven players behind the ball but the Reds had passed the ball well and had created some good openings. Unfortunately, the finish was rarely up to the standard of the approach play, with Raheem Sterling the chief culprit.

It's difficult to be too critical of the youngster when he performs as positively as this though. Ok, his finishing left a lot to be desired, but this was the Raheem Sterling that burst onto the scene a little over a year ago; bright, positive, pacey, exciting and direct. The only thing missing was a goal and this was an encouraging display from the young man on the day before his 19th birthday.

Sterling was one of three fringe players to lay down a marker for a regular place in the side, and that has to be good news for Brendan Rodgers as far too often that hasn't happened, causing the Reds boss to bemoan the lack of depth in his squad.

Joe Allen was another with something to prove who caught the eye against the Hammers. He'd performed well in the win over Norwich too, but he was arguably Liverpool's best player against West Ham. This was the Allen that began his Liverpool career in such impressive fashion before injury affected his form. The Welshman looks to be primed for an extended run in the side now, either at the expense of Lucas Leiva or possibly in a slightly more advanced role if the injury that forced Steven Gerrard off the pitch turns out to be anything serious.

And then there's Mamadou Sakho, who came into the side after Daniel Agger showed up at the training ground on the morning of the game not feeling too well. The Dane may be feeling a lot worse after seeing the dominant display of the powerful Frenchman in his absence. Sakho was defensively flawless, calm in possession and he popped up with a goal just for good measure. He surely did enough to keep his place in the side and if he finds himself banished to the substitutes' bench again next week then he'll have every right to feel hard done by.

In the end, Liverpool ran out worthy and comfortable winners, but for a little spell there things were looking a bit hairy. Indeed, Rodgers was sufficiently concerned that he opted to bring on Martin Kelly for Jon Flanagan to get more height into the side in anticipation of a late aerial onslaught. Despite losing Gerrard, at 2-0 Liverpool were arguably playing their best football of the game -- in the ten minute spell before West Ham scored they were simply outstanding -- but out of nowhere they gave another bad goal away and lost control of the game for a short while before Luis Suarez came to the rescue with a fine header to settle the nerves.

He followed it up with a deflected strike that will probably go down as a Joey O'Brien goal and Suarez just continues to amaze with his brilliance. He may not have scored four this time, but he was simply wonderful again and it's just an absolute pleasure to be able to watch him.

Kevin Nolan also did his bit to ensure a comfortable end to the game for the team he supports when his frustration boiled over and he was dismissed for a lunge at Jordan Henderson. Out of character for Nolan, but he's having a bit of a bad time of it at the moment.

Liverpool's passing and movement was better than it has been in recent weeks and although the scoreline against Norwich was slightly more emphatic, this was a better all round performance in many ways and it was the ideal way to prepare for the tougher challenges that lie ahead. That Hull defeat feels like a long time ago now, but who knows what the next week will bring.


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