Sadio Mane returned from injury to inspire Liverpool to a convincing 4-1 win at West Ham and put Slaven Bilic on the brink of the sack on Saturday night.
The Liverpool star teamed up with his fellow speedster Mohamed Salah to condemn the Hammers to their sixth defeat of the Premier League season. The result leaves West Ham in 17th place, one point above the relegation zone.
Manuel Lanzini gave the home supporters hope of a comeback with a second-half strike to make it 2-1, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlian scored just 57 seconds later, before Mane set up Salah beautifully to score Liverpool’s fourth and end all hope of a comeback for the Hammers.
With the international break now upon us, Liverpool will be thanking their lucky stars Mane is back and firing while Bilic must feel the axe looming above his head…
Liverpool are completely different animal with Mane in the team – especially when Salah is beside him. The Senegal international looked slightly rusty for the opening 20 minutes, and it’s no wonder considering he has returned from injury two weeks ahead of schedule. Mane had a word and a cuddle with Jurgen Klopp pitchside after 13 ineffective minutes before moving into a slightly more central position. The slight tweak was rewarded eight minutes later when he broke at speed at the Hammers defence before sliding Salah in for the opener. His run to the near post then panicked the Hammers defence for the corner, that would eventually end up in Joe Hart’s net. Mane didn’t get on the scoresheet, but had a hand in three of the four goals in a superb performance.
WHO DIDN’T IMPRESS?
Fresh off the back of his first senior call-up to the England squad, Joe Gomez struggled against the Hammers. Lanzini had time to bring the ball down on his chest after Gomez was too easily shrugged off following a high ball into the box. He was then out-muscled by Lanzini who poked home West Ham’s goal. Gomez is still learning the game, but his positioning left Liverpool exposed on the wing when the home side were briefly in the ascendancy.
WHAT SURPRISED US?
Liverpool are bad at the back, but bizarrely West Ham did not set up like they thought they could expose the Reds. Despite being about a foot smaller than the Liverpool centre-backs, Javier Hernandez had the beating of both defenders in the air. Joel Matip was getting too close to his man and there was space for West Ham to attack, but they didn’t for an entire 45 minutes. Matip had an argument with Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum just a few minutes into the game, in a moment where he was lucky to have not been punished for a clear foul on striker Chicharito. The Reds were disorganised as usual and the home side should have been set up to use their height and strength against them. Andy Carroll’s introduction at half-time sparked West Ham, as you would have expected it to, but he should have been playing from the first minute. Bilic got his team selection all wrong and the damage was already done in the second half.
WHAT DIDN’T SURPRISE US?
Defending from both sides have been dreadful this season and this game was no different. Liverpool were equally suspect at the back as West Ham and were under severe pressure in the second half despite opening the second 45 two goals ahead. Ultimately the difference was the quality Mane and Salah who were able to plunder the goals their approach play merited. Joe Hart was poor for Liverpool’s second goal after a low corner was almost directed into his own net by Mark Noble. But, there was nothing Hart could do for the opener when Salah and Mane broke at pace from a corner. There was only one Hammers’ defender close to Hart. West Ham were better in the second half going forward, but always looked on the brink of conceding. Bilic must be fearing for his job.