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Hammers give Pool real scare

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Virgil van Dijk hugs Sadio Mane after he bagged the winner for Liverpool at Anfield

Virgil van Dijk hugs Sadio Mane after he bagged the winner for Liverpool at Anfield

Virgil van Dijk hugs Sadio Mane after he bagged the winner for Liverpool at Anfield

Liverpool's relentless march towards Premier League glory threatened to hit an unexpected roadblock at Anfield against a battling West Ham, but Jurgen Klopp's men found a way to win once again.

Sadio Mane's 81st-minute clincher allowed Liverpool to open up a 22-point lead at the top of the table once again as they came from behind to beat a gallant West Ham.

They may not have been at their best, but West Ham contributed to their own downfall as mistakes from their keeper Lukasz Fabianski helped Liverpool to a 21st consecutive home win in the Premier League.

This looked set to be business as usual as Georginio Wijnaldum headed Liverpool into a ninth-minute lead, converting another fizzing Trent Alexander-Arnold cross as Klopp's men looked to be heading to an easy win.

Chasing a record-equalling 18th successive Premier League win, Liverpool did eventually match the record set by Manchester City between August and December in 2017, but their route to victory ended up being far from conventional.

Relegation candidates West Ham were not the team anyone would have expected to threaten Liverpool's relentless run, yet the Hammers sent out a statement of intent just three minutes after the opening goal of this game as they struck back through Issa Diop.

Liverpool had not conceded a goal at Anfield in the Premier League since Richarlison scored for Everton in the first week of December, yet Diop was left unmarked at the near post and just 174 seconds after the first goal of this game, the visitors were level.

Liverpool knocked on the West Ham door relentlessly for what was left of the first half and Virgil van Dijk hit the crossbar with a header six minutes before the break.

Klopp's side were rocked onto the ropes for virtually the first time this season as West Ham snatched the lead, with substitute Pablo Fornals firing his side into a shock lead ten minutes into the second half.

His sweeping finish after a cross from Declan Rice drew a shocked gasp from the Anfield faithful, with Liverpool's first Premier League setback in more than a year suddenly a real possibility.

After a tight 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last week, the prospect of back-to-back losses for a team that dared to believe they were invincible on home soil meant they were always likely to punch back in style.

Yet when the Liverpool response came, it was laced with good fortune as Mohamed Salah's 68th-minute shot should have been gathered by West Ham keeper Fabianski, who inexplicably allowed the shot to slip through his grasp.

Fabianski was then caught out again as Liverpool found a way through after he vacated his goal and gave Alexander-Arnold a chance to feed Mane so he could tap home a simple winner.

Republic of Ireland keeper Darren Randolph must have looked on from the bench wondering whether the messy performance from Fabianski will earn him a another chance in the Premier League, as Liverpool took full advantage to move closer to their title-winning destiny.

They now only need four wins to confirm the title, with a coronation in late March now looking inevitable.


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