FLAT OUT FOR VICTORY: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard (grounded) in action against United's Mohamed Diame
LIVERPOOL WERE keen to prove they could win the absence of Luis Suarez and did so on a chilly afternoon in east London. The visitors had a better of an open, five-goal, contest to claim just their second away victory of the season.
It will be of considerable satisfaction to Brendan Rodgers’ that his side mustered the craft and penetration to come from behind in testing circumstances.
West Ham looked to have kept the visitors at arm’s length as they sought their second big scalp in as many weekends but the visitors’ patience and persistence eventually paid off.
In the event, West Ham’s famed academy contributed to their undoing. Glen Johnson plundered an early lead before a Mark Noble penalty and Steven Gerrard own-goal gave the hosts a half-time lead. In the second period Joe Cole’s strike and a James Collins own-goal saw the visitors leave Upton Park with a victory that seemed unlikely until deep into the second-half.
On 11 minutes the roaming Johnson controlled a perfectly weighted pass from Gerrard before cutting inside Matt Jarvis and turning back on to his right foot to unleash a drive into the top corner.
Johnson, who scored in his third consecutive league match against the Hammers and promoted further consternation down the host’s left side on 15 minutes when he teed up Raheem Sterling, who should have doubled Liverpool’s lead.
With Lucas Leiva and Gerrard back in tandem Liverpool were neat in their approach play but without Suarez they failed to subject Jussi Jaaskelainen’s goal to any sustained pressure.
By contrast the hosts’ energetic riposte, epitomised by the dominant Mohamed Diame until his departure on 73 minutes, and the purposeful running of Jarvis, saw West Ham recover to enter the break in the lead.
On 35 minutes referee Lee Probert pointed to the penalty spot when Daniel Agger handled Guy Demel’s shot inside the area. Noble’s spot-kick evaded Pepe Reina’s dive to nestle in the bottom corner.
West Ham were good value for the lead on 43 minutes when Gerrard headed Jarvis’ cross into his own net under pressure from Winston Reid and team-mate Agger.
An anodyne opening to the second period suited West Ham more than Liverpool but gradually the visitors found their rhythm and urgency. In three second-half minutes they restored parity and claimed the winning goal.
Raheem Sterling drew a fine finger-tip save from Jaaskelainen and it was the 18-year-old’s reverse pass that released substitute Joe Cole to lash home the equaliser across Jaaskelainen on 76 minutes.
Two minutes earlier Diame had been stretchered off following an awkward landing and with the Senegalese went much of West Ham’s focus.
The momentum now rested with the visitors and if Collins had not turned substitute Jordan Henderson’s cross into his own net on 79 minutes then it seemed certain that Jonjo Shelvey would have completed the deed.