Sunday 1 February 2015 14:10, UK
Daniel Sturridge scored on his return as Liverpool registered a 2-0 win over West Ham to leapfrog their opponents in the table.
Raheem Sterling fired low past Hammers goalkeeper Adrian to put the hosts in front shortly after the break, before Sturridge’s powerful finish doubled the lead 10 minutes into his return from the bench.
Philippe Coutinho was earlier denied by Adrian while Lazar Markovic fired a golden opportunity wide, moments after the hosts felt they should have had a penalty for a foul on Sterling by Joey O’Brien.
But it would not matter in the end as the two England internationals netted in the second half, and Brendan Rodgers’ men move above the Hammers into seventh in the Premier League.
It was an open affair right from the off, with Andy Carroll causing plenty of problems in the air. The striker caught Emre Can with a flailing arm early on and that seemed to rattle the Liverpool man for the rest of the half.
The hosts had the first real chance, though, as the lively Sterling cut in from the flank and laid off for Adam Lallana. The midfielder was quickly closed down but it fell for Markovic, who had one shot blocked before firing wide.
Sterling and Coutinho were the main threats for the hosts, and they nearly set up an opening goal when they played a superb one-two as the former backheeled it beyond the defence, but the Brazilian’s tame effort was easily saved at the near post by Adrian.
The hosts then felt they should have had a penalty right on half time as Sterling spun round O’Brien only to go down under the defender’s challenge. Nothing was given, but Liverpool almost took the lead immediately as Markovic cut out Stewart Downing’s loose pass, only to fire wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.
The hosts finally broke the deadlock shortly after half-time, though. Alberto Moreno’s ball was chested down by Sterling, the ball deflected off Winston Reid into the path of Coutinho, who chipped a lovely ball beyond the defence, and Sterling slotted it calmly under Adrian with a cool first-time finish.
The visitors hardly created anything, but Enner Valencia spurned a chance as he drilled a low shot straight at Simon Mignolet from 18 yards, before Coutinho showed some lovely footwork at the other end, working some space on the edge of the box and firing low at Adrian.
The biggest cheer of the afternoon came with just over 20 minutes remaining, as Sturridge was finally re-introduced to first-team action after five months out when he replaced Markovic.
It only took 10 minutes for Sturridge to score on his return. Coutinho raced into the West Ham half and played a lovely ball into the striker, who took a superb touch before drilling a low shot in at the near post to cap an excellent afternoon for Liverpool.
Soccer Saturday reaction - Matt Le Tissier
"It was pretty comfortable, it really was. West Ham certainly weren’t at their best today. Liverpool were probably not as good as they were in midweek but it was still plenty enough to beat this West Ham side, who didn’t really threaten them too much. I don’t remember Mignolet having to make too many saves.
"It was great for the Liverpool fans to see Daniel Sturridge to come back – that was the highlight of the day for everyone. He got himself a little bit of space in the box, made a lovely first touch, got it on to his right foot and it was a brilliant finish in at the near post. I think that was the big plus point of the day, to see him, after such a long time, come back and give himself a chance and get a goal within 10 minutes of coming on."
Liverpool: Mignolet (6), Can (5), Skrtel (6), Sakho (7), Henderson (7), Lucas (6), Moreno (7), Markovic (6), Lallana (7), Coutinho (8), Sterling (9).
Used subs: Sturridge (8), Ibe (7).
West Ham: Adrian (7), O'Brien (6), Collins (7), Reid (6), Cresswell (6), Song (7), Amalfitano (5), Nolan (5), Downing (6), Carroll (6), Valencia (6).
Used subs: Cole (6), Noble (6), Demel (6).
Man of the match: Raheem Sterling