West Ham 0-4 Liverpool: Reds maintain edge in race for Champions League spot
By Michael Hincks
Last Updated: 15/05/17 6:59am
Liverpool's Champions League fate remains in their own hands after they beat West Ham 4-0 at the London Stadium on Sunday.
In his first Premier League start since January, Daniel Sturridge repaid Jurgen Klopp's faith by opening the scoring after 35 minutes.
Philippe Coutinho then scored a quick double for the visitors after the break, hitting his second in controversial circumstances, before Divock Origi added Liverpool's fourth 14 minutes from time.
The result means Liverpool will guarantee a top-four finish with victory at home to Middlesbrough on the final day next Sunday.
And with Manchester City also in pole position to finish among the Champions League places, Arsenal must now rely on slip-ups from the other two as we enter the last week of the 2016/17 season.
Klopp opted to hand Sturridge only his sixth league start of the season at West Ham, while Adam Lallana also returned to Liverpool's starting XI.
West Ham, meanwhile, were looking to replicate the performance against Tottenham which saw them guarantee safety and all-but end the title race.
And it was the hosts who enjoyed a bright start in their final home game of the season, with Sam Byram guilty of a missed opportunity early on after dragging his effort wide of the far post.
An end-to-end half then saw Joel Matip rise highest to meet Coutinho's corner, but the defender's header bounced off the bar before Winston Reid cleared the danger.
Simon Mignolet was then called into action, with the Liverpool goalkeeper only able to parry Edimilson Fernandes' half-volley from 25 yards out.
Liverpool were looking dominant as the half progressed, and were rewarded for their efforts 10 minutes before the break.
From halfway inside his own half, Coutinho played Sturridge through on goal - who was onside courtesy of some lax defending - and the Liverpool striker made no mistake when one-on-one with Adrian, rounding the West Ham 'keeper before sliding into the empty net.
But despite a half which saw Liverpool enjoy 71% possession and 11 attempts on goal, it was West Ham who really should have levelled just before half-time.
Manuel Lanzini's corner found its way to Andre Ayew at the back post, but from three yards out he could only hit the post before striking the upright once more on the rebound - with Mignolet then smothering the ball to prevent it from going over the line.
Liverpool shot out the blocks after the break, calling Adrian into making a hat-trick of saves in the opening two minutes.
The West Ham 'keeper tipped away Origi's effort before getting a boot to Lallana's fierce half-volley, while the third came after denying Gini Wijnaldum from 20 yards out.
Wijnaldum then ratted a superb volley off the bar, but as the ball fell to Coutinho, the Brazilian weaved his way through the West Ham defence before driving an effort past Adrian to double Liverpool's lead.
The third came in controversial circumstances as referee Neil Swarbrick failed to penalise Wijnaldum for a handball in his own area - a blistering counter-attack followed, with Coutinho slamming an effort beyond the helpless Adrian.
A fourth arrived for Liverpool soon after, with Origi rolling in from six yards out after Wijnaldum's miscued effort.
Victory leaves Liverpool four points above fifth-placed Arsenal, who do have a game in hand at home to Sunderland in midweek.
Manchester City also face West Brom on Tuesday, live on Sky Sports 1, and victory or a draw for City would mean Arsenal have to at least draw with Sunderland to take their slim hopes of Champions League football to the final day.
West Ham: Adrian 7, Fonte 5, Reid 6, Collins 5, Byram 6, Fernandes 6, Nordtveit 6, Cresswell 6, Lanzini 6, Ayew 5, Calleri 5. Subs: Feghouli 6, Fletcher 6, Snodgrass 6.
Liverpool: Mignolet 6, Clyne 6, Lovren 7, Matip 7, Milner 7, Can 6, Wijnaldum 8, Lallana 7, Coutinho 8, Origi 7, Sturridge 8. Subs: Grujic N/A, Lucas N/A, Woodburn N/A.
Man of the match: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)