Wednesday 24 January 2018

Carroll torment has Klopp fuming over Reds' lack of fight

West Ham United 2-0 Liverpool

West Ham's Michail Antonio scores his side's first goal at Upton Park yesterday. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
West Ham's Michail Antonio scores his side's first goal at Upton Park yesterday. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
West Ham's Andy Carroll celebrates at the end of the match Photo: Reuters / John Sibley
West Ham's Enner Valencia tries to evade Liverpool's Emre Can Photo: Reuters / John Sibley
West Ham's Andy Carroll shoots at goal Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville

Dion Fanning

There will be some who see West Ham's defeat of Liverpool at the Boleyn Ground yesterday as further evidence of the great democratisation of the Premier League, but that would require the dangerous assumption that Liverpool remain among the elite.

West Ham United are a club with great ambitions as they prepare for a move to the Olympic Stadium, and they completed the double over Liverpool this season with two headed goals which exposed many failings. The first came after nine minutes, when Michail Antonio powered the ball past Simon Mignolet. The second, inevitably, was scored by Andy Carroll, who flung himself through the air nine minutes into the second half.

West Ham encountered a Liverpool team which lacked essential qualities. They had 65 per cent possession, but did little with it. When they didn't have the ball, they made the mistakes which made Jurgen Klopp angry.

"In the decisive moments, we were not there 100 per cent," Klopp said afterwards, as he expressed his frustration at his side's inability to prevent the crosses which led to West Ham's two goals.

"If you only fight with 95 per cent, it's not enough, it's not enough. If you know Andy Carroll is in the other team, how can you allow crosses?"

Carroll had done more than win crosses. In the first half, he cut out a Philippe Coutinho corner and began a West Ham counter-attack with a perfectly weighted ball that left Liverpool's midfield struggling. It was one moment in an all-round performance which left Slaven Bilic afterwards stressing the player's responsibility to now stay fit.

Bilic described the victory as a team performance, but acknowledged there were individuals who were the "cherry on the pie". James Collins is nobody's idea of a cherry on a pie, but he was immense for West Ham at the back. If Carroll was thriving, Christian Benteke suffered through the game.

On the sideline, Klopp was his usual ball of restless energy, but when Jordon Ibe shot over 25 minutes from the end, he dropped his head, an indication of dejection which may have been temporary, yet it was still revealing.

Liverpool were hapless. Emre Can and Lucas both missed the ball entirely at different points, as neat as summation of a first half of errors and miskicks as it was of the decline of Lucas. This is not a team that can afford too many individual errors. They looked to Philippe Coutinho for brilliance, but he is not quite brilliant enough to carry the burden, and in the absence of a contribution from others, he tried to do too much.

At least it was clear what he was trying to do, something which couldn't be said for Roberto Firmino. Benteke had scored the goals that earned Liverpool six points in their last two games, but you would never have guessed it here. In fact, he played as if he had little acquaintance with confidence or with his team-mates, and if anything good happened, it was a happy accident.

From the outset, West Ham looked to get at a Liverpool side which had little shared understanding. Antonio shot wide early on before he chased back to win the ball off Alberto Moreno. Moreno stayed down after the challenge and got up slowly to watch West Ham attack down his side of Liverpool's defence.

Antonio had moved to the other side, and when Enner Valencia crossed, he had run 100 metres and was there to give West Ham the lead. Klopp was furious on the sideline, possibly because Moreno had not been awarded a free-kick, but he knew the problems were more profound than that.

Firmino had many confused moments before he was involved in something constructive, rolling the ball back to Can, who hit the bar from the edge of the box. By then Manuel Lanzini had hit the post for West Ham, another indication of the frailties in the away side.

Liverpool started the second half with more life, but Benteke snatched at a chance shortly before Carroll won the game.

Liverpool's hesitation allowed Mark Noble to cross. It was more of an invitation to Carroll than a cross. He came charging in, crashing into Valencia and Nathaniel Clyne as he powered the header in.

Liverpool were a bit more constructive after that, but not much. Mignolet saved from Carroll again, and Liverpool somehow scrambled clear, but they couldn't avoid their manager's anger.

Afterwards, Klopp wouldn't be consoled by the idea put forward that he would learn more from his team in defeat than in victory. "You'll never find me three days after we get three points, still celebrating and drunk in a hedge," he said. His analysis of this game here consisted of many different ways of saying 'bad'.

Only the giddy thought Klopp had solved all the club's problems when Liverpool won at Chelsea and Manchester City and this expensively-acquired collection of players needs to be broken up. Klopp took responsibility for the display. "I am really angry with myself today," he said, but his anger is unlikely to be as localised as that.

The nature of the league is such that Liverpool may yet find themselves in contention for the top four, but, even in this season of upsets, it would be stretching things to expect them to finish there.

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