Liverpool claimed another emphatic victory on their return to Premier League action, easing to an important 4-1 win over West Ham United at Anfield.
Jürgen Klopp’s side were back to business after 10 days without a match but showed little sign of rustiness as they successfully found the ways through and around a well-organised away team.
We have picked out five of the key factors in the final result…
Making the most of their 10-day preparation…
Liverpool’s elimination from the FA Cup in the fourth round meant a weekend without a fixture following their stunning 5-0 Champions League victory at FC Porto on Valentine’s Day.
Neither Klopp nor any member of his squad was happy with the circumstances that led to a rare 10-day break between matches – but they were undoubtedly determined to make the most of it.
A four-day training camp in Marbella began straight after the win at Estadio do Dragao before an intensive week of build-up back at their Melwood base. And the manager saw the benefits of that work in his team’s performance against the Hammers.
“When we have time to train, I like how the team uses the information,” he commented. “We don’t have time to train all the time but we had it for one-and-a-half weeks, and now we have another week to step up. It’s good.”
Practice at Melwood producing the opening goal…
Perhaps the aforementioned training time was never more vital in Saturday’s encounter than for the corner routine which created Emre Can’s deadlock-breaker.
Virgil van Dijk had already directed a header too close to West Ham stopper Adrian when picked out from a right-wing corner at the Anfield Road end, but the plan soon worked perfectly.
Mohamed Salah’s delivery found Can at the back post and the midfielder held off pressure to force the ball into the bottom corner for his sixth goal of the season – just as planned at Melwood.
“I’m happy that I could score – because we trained it yesterday and I scored like that,” explained the No.23 after the final whistle. “It’s always good when you train something and score like that.”
Loris Karius’ crucial save with the score goalless…
Before Can struck, however, Liverpool were indebted to their goalkeeper for a fine fingertip save to thwart an audacious effort from the lively Marko Arnautovic.
The Hammers attacker collected a flick-on and scampered across Joel Matip diagonally into the right channel before delicately lofting a shot in the opposite direction that looked destined for the net.
But Karius stretched to get a slight touch on the ball and send it against the crossbar instead. “It was a fantastic save,” said Klopp. A vital one, too, as the Reds opened the scoring just 14 minutes later.
Dealing with the wind to play ‘wow’ football…
“They were difficult circumstances,” reflected the boss once the 4-1 result was in the bag, lifting Liverpool up to second in the Premier League table temporarily.
“All the people who were in the stadium realised it, but on television probably not – the wind came from all directions, it was crazy. I’ve never had a situation like that. It was difficult for the boys to deal with but we did well.”
Indeed. Once the first goal was secured – the Reds’ 100th in all competitions in their 40th match – and turned the tide after an evenly-matched opening 30 minutes, composed play yielded three more from Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
“We really played, in a few moments… wow, great football,” said a delighted Klopp.
Creating chance after chance after chance…
Fewer than three minutes had elapsed when James Milner released Firmino in space at the left edge of the West Ham box and his pull-back was prodded against the far post by Salah.
It was a sign of things to come. Liverpool had 21 shots on Adrian’s goal by full-time, including 12 on target and another off the post – in the second half – from Mane.
The Senegal international said: “It was not easy to score the first goal but we tried and tried again. In the end, we scored. That was the key – the game was a little bit open then.”
Mane, who equalled his tally of 13 last season with the fourth, added: “It was a good goal for me. I never doubt in football, you always have to be positive. That’s what I try to do and finally I scored.”