Monday, April 7

Hammers pay the penalty…

West Ham 1 Liverpool 2

There’s confusion in Ken’s Café as Lisa has pre-ordered Matt’s chips and beans drizzled in cheese and he hasn’t arrived yet. The chips are kept warmish in Ken’s designer kitchen and eventually Matt arrives, enquiring about online delivery of full breakfasts to his home address. There’s no making plans for Nigel either, as he’s at his mum’s, and Fraser has fallen ill with a late injury caused by over-booing.

West Ham have a decent first half, containing Liverpool well and finding Downing on the flank with some good triangular moves. Nolan does a lot of good work off the ball and Carroll worries Liverpool in the air. Tomkins makes two good blocks with his feet and head from Suarez. Though the Liverpool striker only needs a second from a throw-in to chip a lovely shot against the bar from wide on the left. Matt suggests that the Bobby Moore Stand’s chant of, “Sign on with a pen in your hand” is so old it should be listed.

Just as the game looks like reaching half-time goalless Matt asks if we want to know his stat about Liverpool and first-half goals. We think we can guess. Gerrard plays a long ball to Suarez in the box, the Uruguayan turns inside Tomkins and chips the ball up on to Tomka’s hand. Possibly Tomkins’ hand moves towards the ball, though some refs might have thought it unintentional. But with Suarez in his face ref Anthony Taylor points to the spot and Gerrard converts. “We’re gonna win the league tra-la-la-la,” chant the Liverpool fans, recycling Brown Girl in the Ring.

But WHU respond well with Demel winning a corner. Andy Carroll jumps with Mignolet, the big man’s arm trails into the keeper’s face, he drops the ball and Demel shoots home for his first West Ham goal. The Liverpool players go mental as the ref consults the flagging linesman, but the goal is given. The Reds’ players then demand the ref looks at the big screen, perhaps because they’re fans of ads for solicitors. The goal should have been disallowed but it’s a timely boost for the Hammers.

At half time there’s a flood in the Gents urinal and someone quips, “we’re moving in two years so no need to fix it”. Same old West Ham – not taking the piss.

The key moment on the second half comes early when Diame crosses and Carroll hits the bar with a thumping header. Rodgers has brought on Lucas for Coutinho and reverted to a midfield diamond, which starts to work well for the Scousers. Then comes another dubious decision. Flanagan overlaps wide on the left. Adrian comes out gets a hand to the ball as the player falls and Luis Suarez (sorry, that should read the ref) gives a penalty. Gerrard doesn’t miss.

Liverpool dominate after that. Suarez again tries to appeal for a penalty as the ball bounces on to Armero’s arm and Michael gets very cross indeed, muttering about that little s••t wasting all that talent trying to con referees. He’s not been this angry since Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989.

Suarez chips on to the bar with a nonchalant flick of his boot and then has a low shot blocked by Adrian. Jarvis makes a difference and beats Flanagan for speed before sending in a lovely cross in the final minute. Only Cole gets in Carroll’s way and the ball falls to Downing on the edge of the box who wastefully fails to hit the target. There’s still time for Adrian to make a fine save from Sterling before the whistle blows. The players receive warm applause this time.

At least we’ve given the possible Champions a game and it’s a much better performance than against Hull. Michael and myself retreat to the Central, which is out of Old Speckled Hen and any form of drinkable lager, which, quips Michael, is rather like Monty Python’s cheese shop that sells no cheese. Michael then leaves to see a Ray Cooney farce at the Menier Chocolate Factory, his second of the day. 

Realistically, we didn’t expect too much out of this, though the side’s form was fairly encouraging for the trip to Arsenal and Reid is getting back to his old old form. A shame this game will be remembered for the refereeing, though my feeling is that Liverpool might now have the momentum to take the title.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Demel 7, Tomkins 6, Reid 6, Armero 6; Downing 6, Nolan  6 (Nocerino 4), Diame 6 (Cole 5), Noble 6, Taylor 6 (Jarvis 6); Carroll 7.

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