REDS BLOW JO OT & COLD
Diogo’s late show puts indifferent Liverpool top
THEY are far from their fluent best, but Liverpool inevitably still found a way to win here, to reach another remarkable milestone in the club’s glittering history.
For the third time in a row here in the Premier League they conceded first, and looked distinctly weary against a West Ham side set up brilliantly by David Moyes to cause maximum damage on the break.
But if the legs are not exactly willing, then the Reds’ resilience remains intact.
And Diogo Jota’s third goal in a week was enough not only to put them top of the table, but also to set an astonishing record.
The win means they have now gone 63 league games unbeaten at this famous old stadium – equalling the record held by Bob Paisley’s team set between 1978-80.
That puts into startling context what Jurgen Klopp has achieved with this side, who must go down now as among the best-ever Liverpool teams.
And if ever a game showed why this team deserves such an accolade it was this one. They have now gone behind in ALL their league games here this season, and somehow won the lot. That shows a mental strength currently unmatched anywhere else in world football.
Slowly, Liverpool clawed their way back, and eventually produced enough to claim a supremely hard-fought victory.
Jota was the hero again, his three goals this week all coming at Anfield, and in three different games. The Portugal international’s price tag may have been eye-watering, but his contribution suggests it will be money well spent.
An equally-important contribution came from Nat Phillips, making his Premier League debut at the age of 23 – showing the composure and aerial ability to solve Klopp’s defensive headache at centre half.
He won everything in the air, didn’t panic in the face of West Ham’s swift counterattacking and showed his worth at the end, with a towering header from the final corner to relieve the pressure on his side.
Phillips said: “To have that opportunity to play was huge for me and huge for my family. I’m really happy, and even more so to get a good result.”
His final header had Klopp fist-pumping.
And no wonder. The visitors are in f form and a real danger, and yet Liverp again found a way to win, even with many players missing.
They were lethargic in the first half, p even, and yet again conceded from the first shot on target after an error from Joe Gomez in the
10th minute. His weak header went back to the centre of the penalty area and Pablo Fornals finished superbly.
Fornals carved out two more glorious chances to punish the Champions, when first he shot tamely from close range, and then shot against Andy Robertson, each time with the goal at his mercy. Liverpool
BADGE OF HONOUR Diogo Jota touches the Liverpool badge after (above) netting the late winner past
Lukasz Fabianski huffed and puffed, but they eventually got back into the game just before half-time, when Arthur Masuaku kicked at Salah, who went down in instalments, and then got up to convert the penalty.
It was a foul, but perhaps a slightly soft penalty, but that was balanced by another strange VAR decision, when referee Kevin Friend was asked to look again at what everyone thought was a winner for Jota on 77 minutes.
The official decided Sadio Mane had fouled keeper Lukasz Fabianski in the build-up, though it looked harsh.
No matter, because Liverpool in this mood are relentless, if lacking their usual audacious quality. Jota simply got another winner as fellow sub Xherdan Shaqiri sent him through with an exquisite ball, that got an equally excellent finish.
“On the bench I was always thinking about what I could do to unlock the result,” said Jota. “I scored two goals – just one counted – and we got the victory.”
A relieved Klopp added: “Football is always about finding the right way, and tonight the boys found it. As for Nat Phillips – wow! I couldn’t be more happy.
“He was awake from the first second, played his stuff and had a good game.”