Saturday 18 November 2017

Liverpool floored by last-gasp Hammers

West Ham 2-1 Liverpool

Angelo Ogbonna heads home the winner for West Ham at Upton Park. Photo: Reuters
Angelo Ogbonna heads home the winner for West Ham at Upton Park. Photo: Reuters
West Ham captain Mark Noble celebrates the winning goal. Photo: PA
Angelo Ogbonna celebrates with free kick taker Dimitri Payet and captain Mark Noble. Photo: Reuters

Sam Wallace

The mood was already turning to penalties, and that particular human drama, when Angelo Ogbonna, headed home the winner after 210 minutes of FA Cup football that means West Ham survive in the old competition in their last season at the Boleyn Ground.

It was a fitting end to a splendid night of full-on FA Cup football, during which Liverpool had plenty of chances to win this fourth round replay before West Ham's Italian defender got his head to Dimitri Payet's beautifully flighted free-kick in time added on at the end of extra-time.

It was more a case of the missed chances that both sides had towards the end of regulation time and on into extra-time, and a disproportionate number fell to Christian Benteke, who just could not seem to get the co-ordinates lined up however promising the opportunity.

There was a first sighting of Daniel Sturridge in boots and kit since December 16 and he acquitted himself well for an extended night's work.

There was nothing to show for all the grazed posts and penalty-area pinball in terms of goals until the very last moment of the first half when Michail Antonio scored for West Ham.

Before then it was an FA Cup replay nicely on the simmer in which both goalkeepers worked hard until the breakthrough arrived.

It took a strong run from Enner Valencia down the inside left channel and then a cross to the back post, where Antonio met the ball on the full, to make the breakthrough.

The two sides had traded punches until then with neither capable of making the decisive intervention, although West Ham's line-up was very much the senior of the two.


Jürgen Klopp opted for the FA Cup combination of a defence and midfield from rookies and irregulars, building up towards a much more seasoned attacked that included Philippe Coutinho, Christian Benteke and Jordon Ibe.

Liverpool showed 10 changes from the side who drew 2-2 with Sunderland last Saturday, with only Simon Mignolet retained.

He was more reliable in the first half and may even have got the slightest of glove-brushes on Payet's swerving free-kick on 38 minutes that struck a post.

Whether he did or not, he was back on his feet within a moment to push away the follow-up from Antonio.

West Ham had hit a post in the 16th minute when Joey O'Brien found himself in unfamiliar territory in the Liverpool area and struck a heavily deflected shot. Otherwise it was a difficult first half for the Dubliner.

The visitors came close when Winston Reid gave the ball away and Benteke and Coutinho combined, only for the Brazilian to shoot against a post.

Liverpool went down that right side more than once with full-back Brad Smith, whose cross on 26 minutes was missed by Benteke and Coutinho.

Minutes later Joao Carlos Teixeira missed again when the ball was deflected into his path.

West Ham's defence looked shaky at corners, too, when Benteke often found himself free to make a run at the back post. Mignolet had just kept out Antonio's follow-up effort from Payet's free-kick when the 25-year-old Englishman finished powerfully at the back post for the game's first goal.

Liverpool were back in it within three minutes shortly after Benteke tried to force his way through n the edge of the area and Cheikhou Kouyate brought him down.

The free-kick looked inviting even before referee Roger East insisted the wall stand so far back their presence was virtually immaterial - but then they jumped in anticipation and that was where it all went wrong for West Ham.

Coutinho's shot ran under West Ham's wall and found the corner of the net that Randolph could not reach.

It was an embarrassment for Slaven Bilic and his players and they seemed to feel that as Liverpool started to exert themselves.

Klopp saw his chance and sent on Sturridge and Divock Origi, leaving himself with an attacking four of those two supplemented by Ibe and Benteke.

With Sturridge and Benteke in partnership, Liverpool had the potential for goals - it just was not quite clear what would come to pass at the other end. Thiago Ilori seemed to drag down Valencia as he ran onto Antonio's cross from the right on 66 minutes.

Sturridge looked sharp for one who has been away for so long. He challenged the home defence at times in a way they had not been challenged up to then.

Had Coutinho remained on the pitch, there might have been more opportunities for him.

West Ham sent on Andy Carroll as a replacement for Kouyate who went down heavily after a challenge with Jon Flanagan.

By the end of the 90 minutes - with eight added on for the treatment to Kouyate - it had turned into the reckless kind of FA Cup tie that neither manager wanted to lose but neither wanted to see go to extra-time either, and risks were being taken.

The away side had more of the possession and more of the finesse in the closing stages but West Ham looked dangerous on the break.

But it was Liverpool with the best chances and Benteke who missed them.

The first came from a header upwards by Sturridge that dropped just perfectly for the Belgian, who missed the goal altogether with the right-foot shot.

Perhaps that was playing on his mind less than a minute later when he went through on goal and could not get the ball past Randolph, who had done well to get out quickly.

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