What a win! Liverpool showed their class at Anfield against West Ham, dispatching the visitors in a comfortable 2-0 victory. Sterling netted the first after a lovely assist from Coutinho, and the Brazilian provided again with 10 minutes to go – he played in Sturridge, who secured a dream return from injury with a clinical finish at the near post.
It became clear early in the first half that Coutinho and Sterling were on top form. They combined on many occasions to create opportunities, but nobody was able to finish; Markovic came closest in the first half, putting the ball narrowly wide after stealing it on the edge of the area. Still, with Liverpool’s two best technicians playing so well, it was only a matter of time before West Ham’s defence was breached. Sure enough, just six minutes into the second half, Sterling struck. Coutinho played a glorious ball into his path, and the 20 year-old kept a cool head to slot it in.
West Ham didn’t look like responding at any point; Sakho was dominant in the air, and Mignolet claimed the ball well multiple times. He was also quick to release, starting rapid counter attacks throughout the match. Skrtel was largely solid as well – only Can was looking a little uncomfortable, but he didn’t make any major errors.
This solid defence has been characteristic of Liverpool in recent weeks, and has been a major factor in the turnaround in form. However, as one part of the team has strengthened the other has waned – Sterling’s goal was the first in over 250 minutes of football. The chances have been coming thick and fast, but nobody has been able to finish them off. As such, the huge reception for Daniel Sturridge when he came on for Markovic with 20 minutes to go was understandable. He did not disappoint; it only took him 10 minutes to get back to goal-scoring ways, blasting the ball emphatically past Adrian at his near post having received a nice pass from Coutinho.
Watching Liverpool when Sterling, Sturridge and Coutinho are all in form is a beautiful thing – the very idea that the team won’t finish in the top 4 if these three can all stay fit and keep performing is laughable. Coutinho has hit arguably his best ever form in the last few weeks; some of his passes have been sublime, and his skill on the ball is unquestionable. Sterling, too, has the ability to bamboozle defences. This was characterised by his two nutmegs in two seconds on a helpless Winston Reid. It’s been a long five months without Sturridge – scoring just 10 minutes into his return sums him up. He has an immense hunger for the game, and bags of talent to boot. It should also be remembered that this talismanic trio are all 25 years or younger; provided the club can hang on to them, the future is extremely bright.
Things aren’t looking too bad in the here and now either. The win sees us leapfrog West Ham into 7th, and as it stands the reds find themselves just four points adrift of a Champions League spot (Southampton play tomorrow). Last time we had a world class striker score on his first game back after a lengthy time out it was a certain Uruguayan, who proceeded to go on a truly exceptional goal-scoring run. Whilst it would be unfair to expect the same of Sturridge, the fact that he has got straight back into his rhythm is hugely encouraging. The next league game is the Merseyside derby: bring it on.