Liverpool took a huge step towards Champions League qualification as goals from Daniel Sturridge – on his first Premier League start since January – and the magnificent Philippe Coutinho helped them claim a comprehensive 4-0 victory at West Ham.
Sturridge had not started a top-flight match for Jurgen Klopp’s side since featuring in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland on January 2, but displayed the clinical edge Liverpool have at times lacked in front of goal with a superb run and finish midway through the first half at London Stadium.
Prior to Sturridge’s strike, it was Reds who had gone closest to opening the scoring when Joel Matip’s header struck the woodwork, though the visitors were fortunate that Andre Ayew did not restore parity on the cusp of half-time.
Ayew’s poor finishing was duly punished, Coutinho taking matters into his own hands with two terrific solo efforts in the space of four second-half minutes, although the second one came with a hint of controversy.
Georginio Wijnaldum, who had hit the crossbar in the build-up to Liverpool’s second goal, clearly handled in his own area – inflicting injury on Winston Reid in the process – but referee Neil Swarbrick played on, with Coutinho netting 21 seconds later.
Divock Origi added a fourth late on as Liverpool ran riot to seal a win that represents the perfect response to Saturday’s victories for top-four rivals Manchester City and Arsenal and moves the Reds up to third, while a difficult debut season at London Stadium for West Ham came to a dismal end.
3 – Philippe Coutinho has been directly involved in three goals in a single game for Liverpool for the first time. Exceptional.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 14, 2017
Sam Byram should have put the hosts ahead seven minutes in, but the defender skewed wide at the culmination of a slick counter-attack.
Liverpool wasted no time in responding as Matip got free from Coutinho’s corner only for the crossbar to come to West Ham’s rescue.
Klopp’s men did have the lead 10 minutes prior to the interval, though.
Coutinho picked up possession in Liverpool’s half and slid a sublime throughball into Sturridge who, after beating the offside trap and rounding Adrian, made no mistake with a neat finish.
6 – Philippe Coutinho has been directly involved in six of Liverpool’s last 10 Premier League goals (4 goals, 2 assists). Dynamic.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 14, 2017
West Ham were presented with the ideal opportunity to level matters just prior to the interval, but Ayew somehow managed to twice hit the post from point-blank range.
Wijnaldum thought he had extended Liverpool’s lead before the hour with an audacious volley that rattled off the frame of the goal, but Coutinho made sure as, after picking up the loose ball, he capitalised on hapless defending to fire in from the edge of the area.
And the result was put beyond all doubt soon after when officials failed to halt play for what appeared to be a head injury sustained by Reid and Liverpool countered, with Coutinho keeping his composure to thump in his second.
Origi was the next Liverpool player to hit the woodwork, but the Belgian got his goal with 14 minutes remaining, tucking home from close range to add further gloss to a one-sided scoreline.
Key Opta fact:
– Liverpool have now won at 52 different grounds in the Premier League, more than any other side in the competition (Arsenal and Manchester United next on 50).
– West Ham suffered their joint worst home defeat in the Premier League, losing by a four-goal margin for the third time this season (5-1 v Arsenal and 4-0 v Manchester City).
– The Reds have won four of five four Premier League games in London this season (D1), going unbeaten in the capital across an entire league season for the first time since 1988-89.
– This is the first time since 1998-99 that the Hammers have conceded four or more goals in four different home games in a single league season.
– Philippe Coutinho was directly involved in three goals in a single game for Liverpool for the first time (two goals and one assist).