By Arun Nair – (@Nair_39)
Liverpool recorded back-to-back wins in the league for the first time in a year after the Reds fought back from 2-1 down to beat West Ham at Upton Park, courtesy of two goals from ex-Hammers in Glen Johnson and Joe Cole, and the winner an own goal by current Hammer James Collins.
The unlikely recovery came without the assistance of the Reds only fit striker, and talisman, Luis Suarez, ineligible due to suspension.
It didn’t seem like Liverpool were unduly troubled by his absence early on at Upton Park, as they took the lead on 11. Steven Gerrard fed Johnson wide on the right and the former West Ham man cut inside before lashing into the top corner past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Johnson continued to torment the home side, raiding down the right flank on numerous occasions. One burst left Matt Jarvis in his wake before the full back squared for Rahhem Sterling, only for his teammate to fire wide.
Jarvis may have been struggling to contain Johnson defensively but was also causing problems further forward, swinging cross after cross into the area. One such cross saw Carlton Cole deflect a Mohammed Diame effort narrowly wide, before Daniel Agger acted swiftly to deny Cole from poking home.
The pressure was mounting on the Liverpool rearguard and their resistance was broken in controversial fashion.
Agger cleared another Jarvis delivery only as far as Guy Demel, whose powerful first-tme strike rebounded off the arm of Joe Allen from point blank range. Referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot with the Reds furious, before Mark Noble stepped up to slot the penalty past Pepe Reina’s dive.
Things worsened for Liverpool as half time approached. Jarvis curled in another cross and Steven Gerrard headed into his own net as manager Brendan Rodgers looked on in despair.
The turnaround did not appear to be imminent as West Ham continued to press in the second half, whilst the Reds seemed devoid of invention and spark in the final third without Suarez leading the line. His replacement in attack, Jonjo Shelvey, was frustrated on several occasions, most notably heading wide. Sterling had a shot tipped over by Jaaskelainen as the away side toiled to no avail.
But the decisive moment came when Diame pulled up clutching his hamstring. In the Hammers’ midfield dynamo’s absence, Liverpool began to assert some dominance in midfield and drew level thanks to a goal from another former West Ham star, on this occasion substitute Joe Cole angling a shot past Jaaskelainen after he was slipped through by Sterling.
Moment later the Reds took the lead. Jordan Henderson, on for the tiring Lucas Leiva, was released on the right hand side and his first time cross was turned in by the unfortunate Collins, the ball looping off his boot and over Jaaskelainen.
After looking relatively comfortable, the home side were forced to chase the game, but despite considerable aerial bombardment, Liverpool stood firm to gain a precious victory.