Jurgen Klopp’s side are now three points clear of second-placed Manchester City, but the nine-point advantage they held on 29 December has now been cut to only three following two successive draws and a return to form for Pep Guardiola‘s side.
Premier League leaders Liverpool handed a boost to their title rivals as an uncharacteristic defensive error cost them victory at West Ham.
City recorded their fifth league victory in on Sunday against Arsenal. They could reclaim top spot for the first time since 5 December if they win at Everton on Wednesday. Tottenham are also in the title hunt following three successive league wins – they have 57 points, five behind the Reds.
There are also injury concerns for Liverpool, with Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum joining Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold on the sidelines. “Last night we trained and after we had to change three positions,” said Klopp.
“It’s just a fact, it’s not an excuse. The preparation for the game was far from being perfect and we still got a point.” It had started well for Liverpool at London Stadium when Sadio Mane fired past Lukasz Fabianski in the 22nd minute, although James Milner was in an offside position in the build-up.
The Hammers showed enough threat in attack to suggest it would not be one-way traffic, and six minutes later they got a deserved equaliser when Liverpool’s defence failed to read Felipe Anderson’s disguised free-kick and spot Michail Antonio’s run into the area. The English winger finished off with a low angled drive which went in off the post.
Liverpool did not put the West Ham defence under severe pressure, with two efforts from Mohamed Salah and a header from Mane comfortably dealt with by Fabianski before Divock Origi shot straight at the keeper when he had a clear sight of goal right at the end.
Reds attack fails to fire
It was a match where very little went right for Klopp’s side at either end of the pitch after Mane’s opener.
Adam Lallana outmanoeuvred a couple of defenders on the right before playing a pass to the overlapping Milner. The 33-year-old was a yard ahead of the final defender, but there was no flag as his square ball found Mane who turned and fired in.
Fabianski had little else to do until the final kick of the game when substitute Origi, who also looked offside, struck his effort straight at the Polish keeper from six yards.
The attack might have lacked its usual potency on Monday, but it was the defensive display that would have had Klopp most concerned.
Hammers take advantage of defensive lapses
The best defence in the league looked amateurish at London Stadium, as they repeatedly failed to track runners from free-kicks.
Antonio was the first to catch the Reds napping as they appeared set for Anderson to play a high ball into the area. Instead the Brazilian sent a low pass into the path of the English winger, who made a diagonal run before firing past Allison.
The jolt should have made the visitors wary of a repeat, but soon after the goal they experienced further lapses when Anderson was allowed to slip around the side of a wall and get a shot away and Declan Rice headed over unmarked.
Some would point to the absence of injured defensive trio Lovren, Gomez and Alexander-Arnold, but they did have player of the year contender Virgil van Dijk marshalling the backline.
It is Bournemouth next for Liverpool and then the stiff tests of Bayern Munich and Manchester United to come later this month.
As for West Ham, they ended a run of three straight defeats in all competitions but perhaps will feel aggrieved not to win.
Aside from the goal and Rice’s miss both Aaron Cresswell and Javier Hernandez went close with angled strikes while Antonio should have elected to shoot instead of pass after another drive into the area, in the second half.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side remain in 12th but they are now level on points with 11th-placed Leicester.
Man of the match – Felipe Anderson (West Ham)
Milner surpasses Beckham – the stats
- West Ham are unbeaten in three consecutive home Premier League games (W1 D2) for the first time since February 2018 (a run of four).
- Liverpool have won 62 points from their opening 25 Premier League games this season – only during the 1987-88 campaign have they had more points at this stage of a top-flight season (63 – three points for a win).
- Mane has scored in three consecutive Premier League appearances for Liverpool for only the second time, also doing so in August 2017 (a run of four).
- Mane has scored three goals in his past three Premier League appearances, having scored just two in his previous 11 games.
- Milner has registered 81 assists in the Premier League, the seventh-highest total in the competition and one more than David Beckham (80).
- Antonio has scored four goals in his five Premier League games against Liverpool, more than he has managed against any other side.
- Liverpool’s Naby Keita has made more Premier League appearances without losing a game than any other player in the competition’s history (18 games, 14 wins, four draws).
Liverpool are at home to Bournemouth on Saturday and the Hammers are at Crystal Palace (both 15:00 GMT). The Reds’ closest challengers, Manchester City, are at Everton on Wednesday (19:45) before hosting fourth-placed Chelsea on Sunday (16:00).
Source: BBC News