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West Ham and Bilic suffer at the hands of rampant Liverpool

CAPITAL RAIDERS: Liverpool players celebrate after a goal at London Stadium

ONCE AGAIN a team in need of boost visited the London Stadium and received the requisite pick-me-up. Liverpool claimed a 4-1 victory that kept them in touch with the top five and deepened West Ham’s relegation fears.

It was a contest that will have done little to change opinions of either team. Liverpool were lively in attack, with Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain amongst the goalscorers and Sadio Mane shining.

For all that, the Liverpool still looked uncomfortable when under defensive duress, and it was just as well for the visitors that their response to conceding from Manuel Lanzini’s smart finish ten minutes into the second half was to race up the other end and restore their two-goal lead.

West Ham, who were missing four first-team defenders plus Michail Antonio, threatened at moments but were largely insipid. Their manager, Slaven Bilic, cut a haunted figure on the touchline. Once again the Croat’s job security will be called into question following another home drubbing.

Though Philippe Coutinho was absent for the visitors, Sadio Mane made a surprise return to the starting XI having recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained on international duty in early October.

The prospect of Mane marauding in tandem with Salah, tormenting a porous defence in the wide open spaces of this cavernous arena, became a reality, even if Liverpool were some way short of their fluent attacking best.

As two dodgy defences faced off, it was West Ham who blinked first. Mid-way through the first half, in the space of three minutes they were punished, first by a rapid counter, then from a set-piece.

In fact it was a tale of two corners. Liverpool headed Lanzini’s delivery clear and the ball found its way to Salah, who pinged it swiftly past Edimilson Fernandes into the path of Mane. Suddenly Liverpool were three on one, with Aaron Cresswell vainly struggling to tame the tide on his own as Mane carried the ball fully 50 yards. He squared it to Salah, who had kept pace, and the Egyptian adroitly slipped the ball beyond Joe Hart. From one end to the other in 13 seconds.

Liverpool have sliced through better teams than West Ham in similar fashion but their second goal was typical of the team the east Londoners have become under Slaven Bilic. Mark Noble diverted Salah’s corner towards his own net. Hart could only parry the ball into the path of the grateful Joel Matip.

Lanzini reduced the arrears when he hooked a shot beyond Simon Mignolet but Liverpool’s instant response came courtesy of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who beat Hart at the second time of asking. It was a nice tonic for the 23-year-old, coming as it did on his first Premier League start for Liverpool, just days after he was omitted from Gareth Southgate’s England squad.

Salah crowned another menacing display when put through by Mane a second time. He claimed his brace with a low finish that sparked an exodus in the stands.

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