Liverpool demolish West Ham as goals arrive at just the right time


A policy of shooting on sight can work after all. After Liverpool spent Sunday accumulating shots without scoring, the floodgates opened in the Anfield rain. Their 34 efforts brought no goals against Manchester United. Three days later, they tried and tried and tried again and 29 attempts yielded five goals, each courtesy of a fine finish. Persistent, determined, enterprising and excellent, they demolished West Ham, exorcising some of their frustration from Sunday’s stalemate. They surged into a semi-final as the favourites to win a second Carabao Cup in three years.

They performed with the momentum of a team who can sense glory, West Ham with the ineptitude of one whose manager has never won at Anfield. David Moyes’ streak stretches back more than two decades and 21 matches, but this was his heaviest defeat to Liverpool. On a near-perfect night for Jurgen Klopp, Curtis Jones struck twice with Dominik Szoboszlai, Cody Gakpo and Mohamed Salah also scoring high-class goals for a team who were dominant and ambitious from the off. But an eventual shot count of 29-2 was an indictment of the Hammers.

Liverpool brimmed with impressive performances, with Harvey Elliott terrific, Joe Gomez influential and Jarell Quansah continuing his fine progress. If a virus accounted for some of Moyes’ six alterations, the proximity of Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash with Arsenal explained Klopp’s choices. He was able to remove Virgil van Dijk, Wataru Endo and Szoboszlai early while only giving Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konate a run-out for the final half-hour.

It brought the top scorer a goal and the vice-captain two assists in Liverpool’s welcome antidote to the weekend draw. A 0-0 looks still more of an anomaly when their return at Anfield this season now stands at 12 wins in 13 matches, with 40 goals.

Optimism was apparent in their willingness to let fly from distance. Their eighth attempt from long range bore dividends. Quansah robbed Said Benrahma and released Szoboszlai. He unleashed a shot of beautiful technique angled across Alphonse Areola and struck with dip. It was a second spectacular goal in Liverpool’s League Cup run by the Hungarian, following a special effort against Leicester.

Dominik Szoboszlai celebrates his stunning opener

(PA)

There had been signs he was returning to form. He had been prominent, supplying an inviting cross from the right flank that Darwin Nunez headed wide. His running made him elusive, his touch oozed quality.

Meanwhile, Nunez’s eccentricities were displayed from the left flank, rather than his usual role as the centre-forward. His evening began in idiosyncratic fashion, when he accidentally blocked a Szoboszlai shot, but he had a rather more intentional part in the second goal. He released Jones with a perceptive pass and the Liverpudlian nutmegged Areola with his shot.

Jones squeezes a finish through Areola

(Getty)

With Salah benched, Elliott had a rare outing in the front three and sought to show he can be a scorer in a more advanced role. Two 20-yard shots just missed the far and near posts respectively. An effort from close range was blocked by Areola. When Elliott turned provider, and delivered an inviting cross, Gakpo headed wastefully wide. While he is largely a midfielder and an impact substitute at that these days, it was an illustration Elliott remains a fine winger. Gakpo, meanwhile, was linking the play as a false nine and scored in style, with a shot he drilled through the hapless Konstantinos Mavropanos’ legs after Konate won the ball and drove forward.

Salah spurned one fine chance, after Nunez had struck the post, but scored a couple of minutes later when sent clear by Alexander-Arnold, with a wonderful pass from the edge of his own box. The vice-captain had another assist when he found Jones who, in the absence of challengers, advanced to sidefoot in.

Gakpo added Liverpool’s third as the Reds pulled away with little effort

(Getty)

The lack of opposition summed up West Ham’s feebleness. Their miserable display belied their recent record of seven wins in their previous nine games. In the process, they rather wasted their win over Arsenal in the previous round, simply taking one of the superpowers out of Liverpool’s path. The Europa Conference League winners ought to have sensed a chance to get a first domestic trophy since 1980.

Instead, they did not muster a shot of any description until Mohammed Kudus’ 71st-minute effort cleared Caoimhin Kelleher’s bar. Their fine goal – Jarrod Bowen’s second at Anfield this season – was entirely out of keeping with their performance, but curled in beautifully. It was also missed by some of the travelling fans. A section of them had booed at half-time, while, drenched by the teeming rain, a few headed for the exits after Gakpo’s goal, far more when Jones doubled his tally.

It was hard to blame them. West Ham have one victory at Anfield in the 60 years since Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters secured a triumph in 1963. But they have rarely been as meek as this.



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