Rampant Reds crush Hammers
With the captain out for a month with a hamstring tear manager Roy Hodgson called for his players to step up to fill the void and the Hammers provided the perfect opposition. First-half goals from Glen Johnson and Maxi Rodriguez, either side of a Dirk Kuyt penalty, were enough to wrap up the points in the first half. The visiting fans were less than impressed and directed their anger at manager Avram Grant with chants of 'You're getting sacked in the morning'. It is unlikely Liverpool will have an easier game this season and it was the ideal tonic for them after two poor performances in a 1-1 draw at Wigan and last Saturday's defeat at Stoke which ended a six-game unbeaten run. Raul Meireles looked better in a more accustomed central position, filling Gerrard's place, while Johnson and Rodriguez also did well and even the much-criticised Christian Poulsen had his best game since joining in the summer. If there was one criticism it was that Hodgson's side eased up so much after the break they lost all the momentum and rhythm built up in the first half. But they never looked in danger of conceding and the clean sheet was Jose Reina's 134th in all competitions, taking him past Tommy Lawrence into fourth on the club's all-time list. West Ham's league record at Anfield is woeful, as they have not won this fixture for 47 years and scored just four Premier League goals in 16 attempts. The writing was on wall early on as David Ngog forced Robert Green into a low save to his left before Rodriguez and Fernando Torres both fired wide. Green's goal was being peppered even if the goalkeeper was not being properly extended but that changed in the 18th minute when Raul Meireles' long-range effort was tipped over by the England international. Meireles swung over the corner and Johnson chested it down before drilling a low shot straight down the middle of the goal with the goalkeeper unsighted by Danny Gabbidon. It was the first time since the opening weekend of the season a Liverpool goal had not been scored or created by Torres or Gerrard. England full-back Johnson, criticised by manager Roy Hodgson earlier this month for his poor form, appeared to have got the message on his comeback from a three-match injury absence. He was a major force down the right in the first half and his cross set up Torres but he uncharacteristically fluff his first-time shot. But the Spain international contributed to the second goal as it was his flick into the penalty area which bounced off Matthew Upson on to the arm of Gabbidon, allowing Kuyt to roll home a 27th-minute penalty. Gabbidon was better placed to hook Torres' volley away from an empty net after Green failed to properly clear a Meireles free-kick. The goalkeeper did better in blocking Torres' shot with his legs but was powerless to stop Paul Konchesky whipping in the rebound to the unmarked Rodriguez, the smallest man in the penalty area, who guided the ball inside the far post with his head. When Victor Obinna blasted a shot from close range into the top tier of the Anfield Road stand despondent Hammers fans replied with 'That's why we're going down'. The second half had much less to offer than the first as both teams knew the game was over and while West Ham continued to fail to pose a threat Liverpool were content to coast safe in the knowledge the three points were already wrapped up. Had it not been for Green the score would have been double as he tipped Torres' fierce shot onto the crossbar at full stretch and, in the same move, then turned Poulsen's long-range effort around his left-hand post. Substitute Fabio Aurelio, making only his second appearance since the end of August, also drove just over. Liverpool missed the chance to claw back another position or two in the table by failing to improve their goal difference but that was the least of their worries after some indifferent recent performances. For West Ham and Grant the problems continue to mount.