Football: Hammers Dent Liverpool’s Title Credentials
Posted December 2, 2008on:
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool went one point clear at the top of the Premier League table despite suffering a frustrating goalless draw at home to West Ham on Monday.
Rafael Benitez’s side replaced Chelsea at the summit yet few fans felt like celebrating after watching their side miss an ideal opportunity to open up a healthy lead on their title rivals.
Liverpool were guilty of wasting a string of chances while Yossi Benayoun was denied by a brilliant save from Robert Green.
But their performance raised more questions than answers as they were held at home by mid-table opposition for the second successive home game.
It is eighteen years since the title was last celebrated at Anfield yet Liverpool fans started the final month of 2008 optimistic about their club’s prospects of ending that long wait.
Following Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to London rivals Arsenal the previous day, there was no better incentive for Liverpool to clock up their 11th Premier League win of the campaign.
Benitez’s men knew that victory would send them three points clear of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side at the summit and eight ahead of third-placed Manchester United.
Not for the first time Liverpool had to cope without Fernando Torres, once again hampered by hamstring problems, yet their record without the Spaniard suggested that his absence would not hurt them.
Four of the five previous Premier League games with Torres out of the side had ended in victory with the only setback at Tottenham.
His absence at least presented Robbie Keane with a chance to end his stuttering form against a team which had lost on their previous seven league visits to Anfield.
Yet it was the unlikely threat of Sami Hyypia who proved the biggest threat to West Ham in the first half.
Back in the side in place of Daniel Agger, who was forced to look on from the bench, the veteran Finland defender twice went close to breaking the deadlock in the space of six minutes as the visitors lived dangerously.
Green breathed a sigh of relief as Hyypia’s 16th minute header landed on the roof of the net after outjumping the visitors defence. Hyypia went even closer in the 22nd minute when he had a close range effort hacked off the line by Carlton Cole.
Anfield has been a graveyard for West Ham. The last time they triumphed at the venue Benitez was just three-years-old yet the 48-year-old Liverpool manager looked more and more agitated the longer the game remained goalless.
His team just lacked a cutting edge as the game unfolded. How Torres must have wished he had been in the thick of the action instead of looking on from the stand nursing his third hamstring injury of the season.
West Ham struggled to trouble a Liverpool defence which was seeking a fourth successive clean sheet until a 30-yard thunderbolt from Craig Bellamy, who spent one disappointing season at Anfield before moving to Upton Park, sent alarm bells ringing when he rattled Pepe Reina’s post in the 38th minute.
Although it was the one and only nervous moment the Kop was forced to endure, Liverpool, despite all their possession and attacking threat, were playing like a team with the weight of pressure on their shoulders.
Dirk Kuyt was denied by Green shortly before the break and failed to really test the goalkeeper after muscling past James Collins shortly after the restart.
Green then had to produce the save of the match to keep out Benayoun’s powerful rising drive but that was to prove as close as Liverpool were to come to what would have been a scarcely-deserved winner. – AFP/de
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