New Straits Times - - Sport -

MANCH­ESTER games left to play.

Un­til Eng­land striker Sturridge, making his first start since Jan. 3, opened the scoring Liver­pool had seemed nervy as West Ham looked in­tent on putting a span­ner in their top-four hopes.

West Ham’s Sam Byram wasted a golden chance early on, shoot­ing wide after be­ing played clear by Manuel Lanzini.

Joel Matip struck the un­der­side of the cross­bar for Liver­pool, who took the lead when Coutinho’s de­fence-split­ting pass sent Sturridge clear and he left keeper Adrian grounded with a neat stepover be­fore slid­ing the ball home.

Liver­pool sur­vived a scare when An­dre Ayew some­how struck the post twice in the space of sec­onds just be­fore the in­ter­val.

Klopp’s side could breathe easy though when Coutinho fired in a re­bound after 57 min­utes after Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum’s shot can­noned back off the wood­work. Four min­utes later Coutinho made the points safe after a counter-at­tack with West Ham fu­ri­ous that a hand­ball had gone un­pun­ished in the build-up.

Divock Origi steered in Liver­pool’s fourth as the vis­it­ing fans cel­e­brated a likely re­turn to Europe’s elite com­pe­ti­tion.

In an ear­lier match, Marco Silva ad­mit­ted Hull City had only them­selves Riyad Mahrez was tripped by Gael Clichy 15 min­utes from the end, but the winger slipped as he scored the re­sult­ing penalty, touch­ing the ball twice and caus­ing the goal to be ruled out.

“In the sec­ond half, we didn’t know whether to at­tack or de­fend. You have to un­der­stand how im­por­tant the game was for ev­ery­body,” Guardi­ola said.

“When you are in the mid­dle of that, you are not sure if you de­fend or at­tack.

“But with the 10 min­utes of in­jury time we had at the end, they de­fended quite well, so congratulations to the team. We are try­ing to fin­ish the sea­son well.”

Le­ices­ter man­ager Shake­speare ac­knowl­edged the de­ci­sion to rule out Mahrez’s penalty was the right one.

How­ever, he felt that City’s first goal should not have stood, with Ra­heem Ster­ling swing­ing a leg at Silva’s goal-bound shot, and miss­ing it, while stand­ing in an off­side po­si­tion.

“It is a freak penalty, a dou­ble touch. Clearly the let­ter of the law states it doesn’t stand,” Shake­speare said. Reuters to blame after a 4-0 thrash­ing by Crys­tal Palace saw them rel­e­gated from the Premier League.

After tak­ing charge at Hull in Jan­uary, Silva coaxed an im­prove­ment in his lowly team’s per­for­mances, but it wasn’t enough to save them from the drop to the Cham­pi­onship.

The Tigers’ cam­paign has been marred by poor sign­ings and board­room tur­moil that con­trib­uted to Steve Bruce quit­ting last year after he had led them to pro­mo­tion.

Silva ac­knowl­edged Hull, who were woe­ful in a cru­cial loss to rel­e­gated Sun­der­land last week­end, hadn’t done enough to stay up.

“It is re­ally sad for the club and our fans. We did our best to do some­thing in the last four months, but the play­ers need to un­der­stand why this hap­pened and start to win next sea­son,” he said.

“Our play­ers knew this was a fi­nal, we pre­pared like that but gave a goal away at the start. Then it makes it dif­fi­cult.

“We gave them what they wanted and they were com­fort­able. We did the same from set pieces.

The for­mer Sport­ing Lis­bon and Olympiakos boss has al­ready been linked with a close-sea­son move to Premier League side Wat­ford and he was coy when asked about his fu­ture after the Palace de­ba­cle at Sel­hurst Park.

“We will see about my fu­ture. We have to an­a­lyse with the board and chair­man,” he said.

“I will give my opin­ion on what to do dif­fer­ently be­cause it is clear to me.” Agen­cies


Crys­tal Palace’s Chris­tian Ben­teke (cen­tre) and Hull City’s Al­fred N'Di­aye (left) vie for the ball in a Premier League match at Sel­hurst Park yes­ter­day.

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