In a match that typified the season as a whole, Liverpool disappointingly sputtered to a scoreless draw at home to West Ham. The game was heavenly for the pessimists of the world however, as there was a compilation of injuries, bad tactics, and poor officiating. But at the heart of it all was the disturbing truth that Liverpool could not create anything more than a half chance against a pretty poor West Ham side.
From the opening whistle, it was clear that West Ham intended to sit back on defense, preventing Liverpool from creating any wide open 1v1 opportunities on the counter attack. This led to much frustration for the men in red as numerous counter attacks that appeared promising were slowed down by defenders sitting back and crowding out the box. Suarez is the type of player who often takes advantage of deep lying defenses by beating them off the dribble on the edges of the box, but throughout the first half and even the entire game he had difficulty with this.
The first twenty minutes went reasonably well for Liverpool. By the 12th minute, possession had been completely taken over and decent chances were popping up all over the place. Coutinho was proving much too fast and creative for the Hammers and Jose Enrique was feeding him some brilliant balls down the wing. But then came the first problem for Liverpool. Stewart Downing pulled up short with some sort of injury and was replaced by Daniel Sturridge in the 25th minute. While Sturridge wasn't terrible on the afternoon, his tendency to become a black hole in the attack made him a step below Downing in terms of production. After the substitution, Liverpool were mostly timid until halftime. It was actually West Ham who had the best chance of the half as a goal bound Carlton Cole strike was snuffed out by a last ditch Daniel Agger tackle following a bad mistake by Lucas near his own box. With a pretty strong end to the half by West Ham, things were beginning to get a bit antsy.
I really expected to see a better Liverpool coming out of the half time tunnel. The one that came back to beat Villa last week. But it just never happened. Coutinho disappeared until around the 65th minute, with the ball sticking to Sturridge's wing for the majority of that time. Matt Jarvis almost put West Ham up 1-0 shortly after the break, but Daniel Agger once again saved the day. He was excellent throughout the match. Liverpool manufactured a decent chance that didn't materialize when the ball fell to Steven Gerrard unmarked in the box, and a Daniel Sturridge goal was canceled out rightly by an offside flag.
The 70th minute brought about the biggest controversy of the match. Gerrard was brought down in the box by Mathew Taylor on a play that was almost identical to the Suarez penalty from last week, yet nothing was called. While super slow motion replay shows that Taylor may have gotten a toenail on the ball, there was way too much contact for the call not to have been made.
Five minutes later, Oussama Assaidi was shockingly brought on for Jordan Henderson. It's taken me until after the match to realize how bad that move was. Sure, Hendo hadn't been electric, but at least he had been very active and involved. Assaidi was awful, which is a shame because this was a really big chance for him. His only impact on the game was negative, skewing three unsuccessful crosses in fifteen minutes and halting an important counter attack with a poor shot from outside the box. Worse, the move to bring on Assaidi moved Coutinho to the central midfield where Hendo was playing, neutralizing our hottest attacking player's abilities. It was very much predictable after the substitution that Liverpool would create nothing more. Once again it was West Ham with the best opportunity of the half as Lucas miraculously cleared a header off the line.
On to the bullets:
-The referee for the match was Anthony Taylor. Maybe he's related to Mathew Taylor and that's why the penalty wasn't called and it was all a big conspiracy.
-James Collins defended brilliantly for the Hammers, somehow keeping Suarez in check for most of the game. He led all players with seven successful tackles.
-Liverpool again had seven shots blocked today. This trend needs to stop.
-I thought Enrique was strong in the first half, although he seemed to fade a bit towards the end of the match.
-The differential in passing and possession stats was monumental. Let me throw out a few figures. Liverpool had 491 accurate passes to West Ham's 203. Liverpool's passing accuracy was at 82% while West Ham's was at 65%. Liverpool had 65% percent of possession. And they still drew 0-0.
Note: Stats courtesy of EPL Opta.