West Ham have made a huge statement in race for the top four - Liverool win shows they can mix it with anyone

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

West Ham have made a huge statement in the race for Champions League qualification with their stunning win over Liverpool

Seven superb second-half minutes will sit as proof that the Hammers can mix it with the best this season as, after a first-half in which Trent Alexander-Arnold had cancelled out an Alisson own goal, a Pablo Fornals goal and Kurt Zouma’s header ended Liverpool’s 20-match unbeaten run in the Premier League and move West Ham up into third.

Liverpool rallied through Divock Origi’s late goal but it wasn’t enough to spoil a spectacular party at the London Stadium

West Ham had lost two of their three previous games which followed matches in the Euorpa League and were pushed hard by Genk in midweek. However, they made the best possible start here.

Michail Antonio won a corner off Virgil van Dijk after racing clear on the break. West Ham have become set-piece specialists under David Moyes, something Liverpool clearly noted with 11-men back defending in the box.

They weren’t enough to stop the Hammers taking the lead as Pablo Fornals’s corner fell straight on top of Alisson, who swung a hand at the ball and sent it into his own net.

VAR checked for both a potential foul and handball from Angelo Obgonna, who went up with the Liverpool goalkeeper, but neither came to the rescue of the visitors.

West Ham changed shape and sat deep in order to protect their lead. They were restricting Liverpool to very few chances, Diogo Jota coming closest when he headed over from Jordan Henderson’s cross, but the Reds were creeping closer.

With the pressure mounting, Mohamed Salah went down rather obligingly as Declan Rice hung a leg out on the edge of the West Ham box.

Alexander-Arnold and Salah deliberated over the ball before striking back. The full-back rolled it to the Egyptian who stopped it dead and watched as Alexander-Arnold bent a fine effort over the wall and in, well past a stranded Lukasz Fabianski.

After sitting so deep a late flurry of chances in first half injury time - including Michail Antonio fluffing a fine opening on the break - offered encouragement for West Ham, who re-emerged with far more intent.

After two goals in midweek, Said Benrahma was causing Alexander-Arnold plenty of problems before Craig Dawson headed onto Alisson’s crossbar from a corner.

West Ham were facing up to Liverpool in midfield instead of sitting off as they had done in the first half, and it paid off in spectacular style.

Dawson won the ball easily from Mane stepping up in the West Ham half, with the ball falling to Fornals via a touch from Rice.

The Spaniard played into Jarrod Bowen, who had struggled to hold onto the ball in the first half but successfully beat away three Liverpool players before feeding Fornals through the legs of Joel Matip.

Fornals took one touch to set himself and fired at Alisson on his weaker left foot. The Brazilian got a hand to his strike but, as with the early corner, could not stop it finding the back of the net.

The London Stadium erupted and West Ham had Liverpool rattled. Time and again they cut through the visiting midfield on the break, with Virgil van Dijk called upon to fight fire after fire.

After conceding a corner of a break from Antonio, the Dutchman delivered a verbal volley to those ahead. He would have been even more incredulous at the defending moments later. Cresswell, so deadly over a set piece in the last 18 months, swung the ball to the far post where an uncontested Kurt Zouma rose to head in his first goal for the Hammers and seemingly put the game out of Liverpool’s reach.

The visitors pulled one back through a smart turn and finish from Origi before there was a collective sigh of relief when Mane sent a late header wide of the far post.

An equaliser there would have been desperately cruel on West Ham, who showed across 90 minutes almost every facet of their improvement under Moyes.

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