LONDON: Mo Salah regaining his goal-scoring form by striking twice as Liverpool won in London for a second time in four days to maintain the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City. The injection of confidence provided by Thursday’s victory at Tottenham clearly had its effect with a 3-1 win at West Ham.
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, who was making his 200th Premier League appearance, had summed up the refreshed mood before kickoff.
He said: “The Tottenham win in midweek has given us confidence. We were so used to winning games that even the draws had felt like defeats and it had not been easy for us with all the injuries.”
The one problem to emerge from the Tottenham game was injury to Sadio Mane and a concern for manager Jurgen Klopp that Roberto Firmino needed a rest.
Klopp has made no secret of the fact that Liverpool are looking for new central defender without fortune so far. Liverpool were thus fielding their his 12th different central defensive partnership of the season with captain Jordan Henderson lining up alongside Nat Phillips. West Ham manager David Moyes expected the pace of in-form Michail Antonio to capitalise.
Hammers were unable to include England forward Jesse Lingard. His loan from Manchester United was not completed in time for a match which Liverpool dominated from the start.
Neither goalkeeper was tested in the opening halfhour. A vastly-improved West Ham and playing this season with great discipline and improved organisation in defence. Thus even Thiago Alcantara was unable to create openings. Thiago’s playmaking talents mean Liverpool play more through the centre and lose the value of their attacking fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson.
On the rare occasions Liverpool did make significant progress Mo Salah was wide with a header and had a shot saved while Xherdan Shaqiri saw a shot blocked for a corner. Antonio, for West Ham, had a header of his own saved easily by Allison.
Klopp brought on Curtis Jones early in the second half for James Milner and was immediately rewarded. Jones, with virtually his first touch, provided the assist from which Salah opened the scoring. Eleven minutes later Liverpool cleared a corner and Shaqiri provided the long cross from which Salah scored again.
This was a 15th goal of the season for the league’s leading scorer but his first in seven Premier appearances. Salah is the first player to score 20-plus goals in all competitions in four consecutive seasons for Liverpool since Ian Rush did so six times running from 1981-82 to 1986-87.
Wijnaldum struck the killing third goal with six minutes remaining before Craig Dawson snatched a West Ham consolation.
Tuchel’s first win
Chelsea have their first goals and first win under Thomas Tuchel. They were also more impressive in a 2-0 win over Burnley than on Tuchel’s disappointing goalless debut against Wolves in midweek.
Timing is everything in football and Chelsea took the lead just before half-time after a low-key first half through captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
Tuchel said: “This gives us a boost. You always have to convince players with results. We controlled the match completely; we never lost awareness or focus. We fought and we were strong, we deserved to win.
“But it should be a signal to our guys up front that we needed two defensive players to score. We lack that last precision in the box. We will work on this. But in the end I cannot care less. We are happy to have the win.”
Chelsea owed victory to some outstanding individual performances all over the pitch. Mason Mount was outstanding in midfield until being substituted by Kai Havertz in the 80th minute, Callum Hudson-Odoi created most of Chelsea’s openings from the right wing and Thiago Silva was a rock in the centre of defence.
The only disappointment was that Timo Werner remained without a goal in 13 league games since early November. He was guilty of a bad miss after 20 minutes but kept on working hard and Chelsea were rewarded with a goal just before the interval from captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
Chelsea were more dynamic in the second half. Christian Pulisic wasted two clear chances to score before the returning Marcos Alonso made it 2:0 in the 84th minute. This was Alonso’s first appearance since September.
Both victory and the manner of Chelsea’s second-half performance set them up perfectly for the testing visit to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on Thursday.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds upset Leicester’s title hopes with a 3-1 win.
Centre-forward Patrick Bamford, without a goal in five games in all competitions, scored one goal and created the other two for Stuart Dallas and Jack Harrison. Bamford, 27, has been directly involved in 15 league goals. The watching England manager Gareth Southgate must have been impressed.