By Arun Nair – (@Nair_39)
Liverpool’s European hopes were dealt a severe blow as they were held to a goalless draw at home to West Ham. Despite dominating possession for considerable spells, the Reds were left frustrated by their inability to break down a resilient Hammers side, leading to crucial points dropped in the race for places in continental competition next season.
The draw leaves Liverpool in seventh, three points behind rivals Everton having played a game more, while West Ham eased their relegation fears with the point moving them seven points clear of the bottom three.
An immaculately observed minute’s silence was held before the game and players wore black armbands to mark the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy on 15 April.
The home side enjoyed plenty of possession in the first period, but chances were few and far between as the Reds struggled to penetrate the Hammers’ spirited rearguard, with James Collins marshalling the normally irrepressible Luis Suarez to great effect.
However, it was West Ham who had the better of the sporadic chances in the first half, Mohammed Diame wriggling past several Liverpool defenders before blazing wastefully over the bar, before Daniel Agger intervened to block Carlton Cole’s strike after Lucas had squandered possession just outside his own area.
Suarez forced a low save from Jussi Jaaskelainen as the Reds applied pressure, pushing for the opener, but the Hammers remained resolute to go into the break level.
The home side increased the tempo and the pressure in the second half, with Steven Gerrard coming to the fore. The skipper burst into the box only to see his cross diverted away by Guy Demel with Daniel Sturridge, on as a first half substitute, threatening to pounce, before having his goalbound shot blocked by James Tomkins after Suarez had wreaked havoc in the West Ham area.
The Uruguayan was beginning to evade the shackles of the Hammers centre backs, and after swerving past Tomkins with ease, fired a low strike from a seemingly improbable angle narrowly wide, after which Sturridge turned in Jordan Henderson’s cross-cum-shot only to be denied by the linesman’s raised flag.
Liverpool were adamant that they should have been awarded a penalty after Gerrard was sent tumbling by Tomkins’ sliding challenge but referee Anthony Taylor waved away the Reds’ appeals, before Agger’s deflected effort from range flew narrowly wide of Jaaskelainen’s goal.
The Reds continued to probe for what would surely be the winner, but West Ham came close to snatching all three points when substitute Jack Collison headed goalwards only for Lucas to clear off the line with Pepe Reina beaten, before Jaaskelainen denied Suarez at the death, saving the striker’s low near post shot as the Hammers stood firm to earn a deserved point.