Sadio Mané’s effort ten minutes from time saw Jürgen Klopp’s troops over the line but the league leaders were forced to work hard for their record-equalling 18th league victory in a row.
The Reds were fast out the blocks and took the lead inside the opening 10 minutes. Trent Alexander Arnold provided the assist and Gini Wijnaldum stooped to head home. But West Ham hadn’t read the script and were soon back on level terms. Liverpool failed to deal with a corner and Issa Diop was on hand to head the visitors back level.
In a frantic start, Mo Salah cut in but his curling shot from inside the area was tipped over by Lukasz Fabianski, who also saved well from Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk.
However, the Hammers limited Liverpool to half-chances and with the Reds not at their penetrative best, the teams went in all square at the break.
Then the unthinkable happened; West Ham went in front, after substitute Pablo Fornals finished into the bottom corner from a Declan Rice cross.
But the joy was short-lived as Fabianski who’d hardly covered himself in glory for the opener, inexcusably let Salah’s shot squirm through his legs and into the net.
And as if on cue Alexander-Arnold was the provider yet again. He registered his 12th league assist of the season and put it on a plate for Mané to give Liverpool the win.
Key Talking Point
They got away with a win here but only just.
It was very noticeable that the Reds missed their skipper against the Hammers. Jordan Henderson is clearly a big loss for the league leaders.
His energy and ability to drive the team forward was absent and at times Liverpool looked flat and somewhat laboured in midfield.
Henderson’s boots are big ones to step into and despite his best efforts, Naby Keita was unable to fully fill the void in Liverpool’s engine room.
There was a tenacity missing which defines the England midfielder’s game and the league leaders missed his authority.
The press for which Klopp’s men have become renowned was practically non-existent without the skipper.
On several occasions, the Reds failed to get close to the Hammers and the visitors enjoyed more success than most who have travelled to Anfield this season.
Alisson (5), Alexander-Arnold (8*), Gomez (5), Van Dijk (6), Robertson (7), Fabinho (6), Wijnaldum (6), Keita (5), Mane (7), Salah (6), Firmino (5).
Subs: Oxlade-Chamberlain (7), Matip (N/A)
Trent Alexander Arnold’s wand of a right foot was yet again on display at Anfield and the right back took less than 10 minutes to register his 11th assist of the season.
It appears that defenders still haven’t learnt that giving the young right back space is not a good idea.
defenders with more than 10 assists in a PL season
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) February 24, 2020
2 assists for @LFC’s Trent Alexander-Arnold & 1 for Andy Robertson tonight
Most @premierleague assists since start of last season
2️⃣4️⃣ T ALEXANDER-ARNOLD
1️⃣8️⃣ A ROBERTSON
1️⃣8️⃣ K De Bruyne
1️⃣7️⃣ R Fraser pic.twitter.com/fMFhpGjPBW
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 24, 2020
His wicked early delivery was just begging to be put away and arriving late into the box, Wijnaldum duly obliged with a fine stooping header.
Time and time again, it was Alexander-Arnold who was the likeliest player to unlock the stubborn Irons defence during the first half.
First, he had an effort flash just wide of the post, then his free-kick was deflected inches wide before he whipped an inch-perfect cross into Van Dijk, only for Fabianski to tip it over.
In the second half, once Liverpool had fallen behind it was Alexander-Arnold who was the one player constantly providing an attacking outlet.
25 – Only Cesc Fabregas (20y 134d) and Wayne Rooney (21y 63d) have reached 25 Premier League assists at a younger age than Trent Alexander-Arnold (21y 140d). Special. pic.twitter.com/l4teO9SWnf
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 24, 2020
Whether it be dead-ball situations or marauding forward runs, the England international was a man on a mission.
So it was hardly surprising that it was he who provided the supply line for Mané to hit the winner.
Key Talking Point
Away from the off the pitch drama surrounding West Ham supporters’ resentment directed towards owners David Sullivan and David Gold, there was a job to do on the pitch.
Fans were in need of a lift and their team gave as good account as any who have attempted to topple the red machine on their own patch this term.
During his managerial career, in 15 previous attempts, David Moyes had never overseen a victory at Anfield, that now rolls over to 16 but his side gave a very good showing here.
For the most part, West Ham’s deep defensive block – perhaps inspired by Atletico Madrid’s success – nullified Liverpool and restricted the Reds to long-range efforts.
The visitors did allow balls into the box from the wide areas but they defended them admirably and will take some confidence from their performance.
Had it not been for a very questionable moment or two from Fabianski in goal, then Moyes may have been coming away from Anfield with at least a point, if not three.
Fabianski still punishing Arsenal fans after all these years smh
— Aaron West (@oeste) February 24, 2020
That said, the West ham manager will take heart from his side’s display and if they show the same levels of performance, they will steer clear of the relegation zone.
Fabianski (6), Ngakia (8*), Diop (7), Ogbonna (7), Cresswell (7); Rice (7), Noble (7), Snodgrass (7), Soucek, Felipe Anderson (6); Antonio (6)
Fornals (7), Haller (6), Bowen (5)
STAR MAN – Jeremy Ngakia
Right back has been a problem position for the Hammers this season neither Ryan Fredericks nor Pablo Zabaleta able to nail down a regular starting berth.
But in 19-year old Ngakia, it appears that the Irons may have uncovered a gem and the latest in a seemingly endless list of young, talented English right backs.
He was not overawed by the occasion and stuck to his task of keeping tabs on Mané, many a man has tried and failed miserably.
But the teenager put in a commendable performance at Anfield, not only in defence but offensively too.
Ngakia was certainly not afraid to venture forward at every opportunity and he put in some inviting balls into the Liverpool box.
In the second half as the Reds went in search of an equaliser, the full back was required to fulfil his defensive duties, something he did extremely well.
A reminder that Ngakia is 19 years old. What a performance from the youngster, up against the best attack in the world at the moment
⚒ Bright future awaits… #WHUFC pic.twitter.com/lEPiEYipIv
— ⚒ COYIrons ⚒ (@COYIrons_com) February 24, 2020
Leaders Liverpool take their quest for the title to Watford for a Saturday tea-time Premier League clash, whilst the Hammers entertain Southampton in a relegation six-pointer on Saturday afternoon.