5.19pm EST 17:19 Now it’s the turn of West Ham captain Mark Noble. “January was a bad month, so to come here after three defeats was massive for us. We should have scored more goals. Liverpool are a fantastic team but we defended well tonight and we deserved to win. You have to defend really
Now it’s the turn of West Ham captain Mark Noble. “January was a bad month, so to come here after three defeats was massive for us. We should have scored more goals. Liverpool are a fantastic team but we defended well tonight and we deserved to win. You have to defend really well, and keep your shape. As well as that, we scared them with two or three counters. I’m just gutted we didn’t come away with the three points. We’re gutted in there because their goal was a mile offside. All in all, they’re probably the best team in the league at the minute and we played really well today.”
He’s then asked whether Liverpool’s nerves are betraying them. And his response is pretty interesting. “Well I watched the game at Anfield in the week [against Leicester] and you can tell that with the history Liverpool have got, there was anxiety around the stadium, and that feeds into the players. You could feel it sitting at home on my sofa. It’s just that Liverpool want to win the league so much. They’ve got a great chance of doing it, but obviously their fans have to stick by and keep supporting them, especially when you’re leading and everyone’s chasing. And Man City are not going to rest for one game. I’m pretty sure they’ll be fine, they’ve got a fantastic squad of players and a world-class manager and do you know what? For the Liverpool people, I think it’d be fantastic if they did win it. Manchester City have won a few!”
A melancholic Virgil van Dijk speaks. “A draw is tough but they defended very well, and we were unlucky we didn’t win. Our defending could have been a lot better, but it is what it is. We have to take our one point from tonight and keep going. Set pieces are their strength, they practice them a lot and it showed. For us, it would have been better to not give easy fouls away. Though I think the referee was a bit easy at times, but it’s his decision and we need to do better as well. All the players who come in have the quality to fill in, but when you have a back four that doesn’t change, maybe it’s a little easier. What can we do? We take it game by game. We’re still top of the league, though we’ve made it hard for ourselves. But we’re still in the title race, and some teams are not. You need to enjoy the pressure, you can also be playing for nothing. We need to be our best for the rest of the season. We’re disappointed, but we go again.”
Jurgen Klopp doesn’t look happy at all. He holds a full-and-frank discussion with Manuel Pellegrini as the pair shake hands, then rants awhile at the referee. Neither man seems particularly interested in engaging. Not sure what his problem is, to be honest. It might be about the amount of added time? In which case, Liverpool still had 94 minutes across the piece to score more than one goal. His team were very poor tonight. West Ham, by comparison, were excellent. Their point consolidates their position in 12th, where they sit behind Leicester on goal difference, 32 points. Liverpool extend their lead over Manchester City to three points, on 62 points, but they’ll be knocked off top spot in a couple of days should Pep Guardiola’s side win at Everton. City will have played a game more, of course, but then Liverpool’s corresponding extra fixture is at Manchester United, and the form book suggests only one winner there. It’s not been a good week for Liverpool at all.
FULL TIME: West Ham United 1-1 Liverpool
Keita flicks the ball over the West Ham back line to release Origi! But the striker can’t sort his feet out, and shoots straight at Fabianski! And that’s it! Liverpool drop two points in the title race, West Ham more than deserving of the draw!
90 min +2: Milner crosses from right. Doip slices hysterically into the air. But Ogbonna clears. Up the other end, Allison races from the box only to head straight to Carroll! Fortunately for the keeper, Robertson is on hand to sweep up.
90 min +1: Nothing happens in the first added minute. It’s all played in Liverpool’s half, as well. West Ham have been excellent tonight.
90 min: Felipe Anderson makes way for Arthur Masuaku, as the stadium announcer gives him the man-of-the-match award. There will be three minutes of added time.
89 min: Fellow would-be title-winners Spurs have found late goals in each of their last three matches. Can Liverpool get one here? It doesn’t look like it right now. Milner finds a bit of space down the right and pulls one back for Keita, who shapes to shoot but hesitates. He’s eventually dispossessed by Snodgrass, who wins a free kick into the bargain.
87 min: Robertson and Mane pair up to zip down the left. Robertson’s eventual low cross forces Cresswell to hack out for a corner. The set piece falls to the feet of Salah, but Antonio is up in his grille in short order, and the danger is cleared. Salah looks pained.
85 min: Keita has the ball in the middle of West Ham territory. But there’s no movement ahead of him, no pass to be made. He waves his arms about in Kloppian style, equally frustrated with how this match is panning out.
83 min: Salah and Shaqiri try to combine down the inside-right channel, but the passes aren’t sticking. On the touchline, Klopp is incandescent, throwing his arms around in a very animated manner. It’s only a month ago that Liverpool were playing a match at Manchester City in the hope of going ten points clear. Now, unless they score in the next seven minutes, City can leapfrog them by winning at Everton in a couple of days.
81 min: Origi motors his way down the left and is illegally tugged back. A free kick, and a chance for Liverpool to load the West Ham box. Shaqiri takes. It’s half cleared. Salah takes a shot from the edge of the D. It hits van Dijk, who isn’t offside and can bustle down the inside-right channel. He’s clear in the box but doesn’t fancy a shot from a tight angle. Instead, his weak cross is easily snaffled by Fabianski.
79 min: A double change by West Ham. Mark Noble and Javier Hernandez are replaced by Pedro Obiang and Liverpool’s former £35m man Andy Carroll. This script almost writes itself. Let’s see where this goes, then.
77 min: Felipe Anderson is sent racing down the left by Noble’s fine crossfield ball. He one-twos with Snodgrass on the edge of the Liverpool box. It looks for a nanosecond like he’s through, but Matip reads it well, sticks out a telescopic leg, intercepts and clears.
76 min: Liverpool have scored 14 times this season in the final 15 minutes. Only Arsenal and Chelsea can match that record. What the visitors would do to grab a precious 15th tonight. They’re seeing plenty of the ball; they’re just not doing a great deal with it, and West Ham look extremely comfortable.
75 min: Liverpool make their second change of the evening, hooking Firmino, strangely ineffectual tonight, and sending on Divock Origi.
74 min: Keita’s cute dribble down the inside-left channel nearly opens up West Ham. But his flick to Salah comes off his team-mate’s arm, and the pressure is off.
73 min: Snodgrass dribbles his way past Matip down the left. He cuts back for Felipe Anderson, who half handles the ball into the path of Noble. The West Ham captain sends a first-time shot inches over the bar. That was so close. West Ham have had their chances.
71 min: There’s not a great deal going on right now. West Ham will be happy enough with that: a point will put a stop to their current losing run. Liverpool, not so much. This is a big 20 minutes in the Premier League season. Far from decisive, of course; it’s only February after all. But big enough.
67 min: Liverpool have very little going on right now. Accordingly, they’re preparing to bring on Xherdan Shaqiri.
65 min: Matip beckenbauers his way upfield, but there’s one feint too many. He has the ball nicked off him by Rice, who launches a counter into the space left by the Liverpool defender. The ball is sent wide right for Antonio, who instigates a game of pinball in the Liverpool area. Hernandez doesn’t get the break, and Liverpool can hack clear.
64 min: Liverpool’s desperation is beginning to bubble to the surface. Robertson tries his luck, 30 yards out down the left. Nope!
62 min: Salah suddenly looks lively. Another shot, this time wild and over the bar. But he was a complete non-event in the first half, and this represents a big improvement. Liverpool certainly need something more from him. On the touchline, Klopp claps in encouragement.
61 min: Salah jigs in from the right and shapes a shot around Cresswell, towards the far corner. But there’s no real whip on the shot, and it’s easy pickings for Fabianski. Salah looks pained; the away fans sing his name by way of support.
60 min: Hernandez is booked for coming through the back of Fabinho in the centre circle. A pointless challenge.
59 min: Liverpool are looking very rusty. They’ve got a three-on-two, but Mane and Firmino confuse each other with misplaced passes, and West Ham can tear clear.
58 min: Salah is sent free by Fabinho’s long ball down the inside left, but Fredericks has him covered and it turns out Salah is offside anyway. West Ham go up the other end through the ever-impressive Felipe Anderson, who nearly sets Cresswell off on the overlap, but overhits the pass slightly. Goal kick. This match continues to entertain, even if the quality isn’t from the top drawer.
56 min: Space for Milner down the right. His whipped cross is a dangerous one, but avoids everyone. Robertson tries again from the other flank, having retrieved the ball, but his cross takes a deflection and loops into the arms of Fabianski.
55 min: Cresswell slams the free kick straight into the Liverpool wall and then sprays the rebound miles over the bar.
54 min: And now Matip goes in the book as he drags Felipe Anderson to ground as the West Ham winger spins him. Lallana is still moaning about the non-decision earlier. Anyway, this is a free kick in a central position, 30 yards out.
53 min: Lallana throws his arms in the air after failing to get a free-kick decision from a common-or-garden tussle in the midfield. Liverpool could do with calming down.
51 min: Robertson slips a ball down the left for Mane, who lays off to Lallana on the edge of the box. Lallana tees up Salah, rushing in, but the resulting shot, while powerful, is straight at Fabianski.
49 min: Lallana scampers down the right and attempts a flick into the box. The ball hits Ogbonna, just inside the area, on his arm. Lallana claims for a penalty, but that was totally accidental, Liverpool were never getting that. The first signs of frustration from Liverpool, who shouldn’t be getting desperate yet.
48 min: But Liverpool don’t clear their lines properly, Allison slicing an upfield hoof straight out of play on the left. Antonio wins a corner from the throw. And from the corner, Diop has a clear header eight yards out, but guides it wide left. Liverpool can’t keep giving up chances like this.
47 min: Felipe Anderson embarks on a skitter down the left and is blocked off by Milner. Yet another chance for West Ham to bother Liverpool with a cheeky free kick. But they make a balls of this one, Anderson dribbling in from the left and shooting witlessly into a thicket.
And we’re off again! Liverpool are out early, waiting for West Ham. In the dugout, a pensive Jurgen Klopp sits biting his lip. He may be considering how Manchester City will be able to go top on Wednesday night if things stay the same here and they win at Everton. His charges get the second half underway when the hosts eventually turn up.
HALF TIME: West Ham United 1-1 Liverpool
And that’s that for the first half. Title-chasing Liverpool will be pleased to hear the whistle, as they were beginning to seriously rock at the back. West Ham look much the happier as the players trudge off. Jurgen Klopp races down the tunnel, preparing to tell his defenders a few home truths, I’ll be bound. Don’t go anywhere, this promises to be a rip-roaring second half!
45 min: There will be one added minute. This half of football has flown by.
44 min: Mane nearly adds insult to injury, as he meets Milner’s inswinging free kick with a flashed header by the near post. Fortunately for West Ham, it’s straight at Fabianski.
43 min: Fredericks thinks Mane has pushed him as the pair contest a ball down the Liverpool left. He’s not getting the free kick, though he should. So then he loses his composure and barges into the back of Mane. This time the free kick’s given, just to the left of the West Ham area.
41 min: Fabinho gives away another free kick, needlessly tripping a surrounded Hernandez out on the West Ham right. What will they come up with this time? Felipe Anderson sends a diagonal curler over the top of the pack lined up on the edge of the box. It drops to Rice, totally free, 12 yards out! But Rice sends his header screaming over the bar when it was surely easier to score! He can’t believe he’s missed it … though he might (stress might, it was very close) have been offside. Either way, though, the flag stayed down, and Liverpool’s defence is a complete shambles.
39 min: Keita continues to attack with elan, gliding down the left and releasing Robertson on the overlap. Robertson crosses low and hard, through the six-yard box, but Ogbonna toe-pokes it away from Firmino and out for a corner. A corner that’s not awarded. Liverpool are collectively livid, and the crowd enjoyed that very much, cheering the decision almost as loudly as the equaliser.