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Daniel Sturridge on the mark for Liverpool

TEAMWORK: Daniel Sturridge (centre) being congratulated by team mates at the London Satdium

IT WAS the Philippe Coutinho Show in east London as Liverpool kept their top-four hopes in their own hands with a 4-0 rout of West Ham.

His two goals and a superb assist did for a disappointing opponents, whose threadbare squad was brutally exposed in the east London sunshine. Coutinho clearly enjoys a new, deeper lying role that allows his vision, passing ability and close control to flourish.

West Ham, on the other hand, had little to play for but the manner of this defeat, even with key personnel absent, will have done little to enhance Slaven Bilic's chances of still being in charge at the London Stadium next season. It has been an underwhelming first campaign for West Ham in their new home, even if relegation fears were averted some weeks ago.

The early exchanges saw the teams trade shots before Liverpool's greater refinement pushed their opponents back, not that Liverpool's neat and threatening approach play was entirely free of anxiety.

Bilic might have viewed West Ham's exhilarating defeat of Tottenham under the lights here two Fridays ago as a template for keeping dangerous opponents at bay before striking at the other end. Liverpool were wary of a similar scenario, especially after Arsenal's comfortable dismissal of Stoke on Saturday evening left them ready to pounce on any slip-up from Jurgen Klopp's men.

It was of little surprise that the Reds' coolest operator, Coutinho, was the architect of a superb opening goal on 35 minutes. The Brazilian spied Daniel Sturridge and pinged a pass from deep in his own half that split West Ham's back three. The England international took advantage of Aaron Cresswell stepping up and timed his run to perfection before nervelessly rounding Adrian to ease Liverpool nerves. It was his first goal since January 2.

Yet Liverpool persist in giving opponents opportunities. West Ham should have entered the interval level when Manuel Lanzini's corner dropped into the path of Andre Ayew at point blank range. With the goal at his mercy, the Ghanaian hit the post and repeated the trick half a second later from the rebound. It was a late contender for miss of the season.

Two second half goals in quick succession deflated West Ham. On 57 minutes Georginio Wijnaldum cracked the crossbar and moments later when the loose ball came to Coutinho, he eschewed a first time effort to press on and lash home Liverpool's second.

Four minutes later following some smart footwork in the West Ham penalty area, Coutinho slotted his second goal through the gap between Adrian and Cresswell to make it 3-0. Liverpool's anguish suddenly seemed a distant memory. Wijnaldum might have been penalised for handball in the build-up to Liverpool's third but it did not detract from Coutinho's fine work in putting the result beyond doubt.

Divock Origi added further gloss on 75 minutes, much to the delight of Klopp. By contrast, Bilic looked like a man whose number is up.

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