AT UPTON PARK
WEST HAM UNITED 1 LIVERPOOL 2
BUOYANT Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expects his table-topping team to adopt a fearless approach when title rivals Manchester City visit Anfield next weekend.
Two penalties from captain Steven Gerrard yesterday was enough to down West Ham – who netted contentiously through Guy Demel – and earn the Reds their ninth Premier League win in a row.
Liverpool are now two points clear of Chelsea at the summit and four ahead of City, though Manuel Pellegrini's team have played two fewer games.
And Rodgers believes the pressure now falls on City to obtain the points required to tighten the title race.
“The mentality of the team I’ve put together is to be fearless, no matter who we play,” he said.
“There’s no nerves, we look to play and pass under pressure and if we can continue to do that hopefully it will continue to get us good results.
“They’re [City] a wonderful football club that's invested well in top players, but they’ve invested to win the league and Champions League and they’ll be looking to come to Anfield to get a result. We know it’s a big game, but in all the big games this year we’ve done really well.”
After Luis Suarez had seen an exquisite angled chip clip the crossbar, he won a penalty two minutes before half-time when James Tomkins was adjudged to have blocked the Uruguayan’s flick with his hand.
Gerrard sent Adrian the wrong way from 12 yards, but the league leaders were pegged back before the interval in contentious circumstances.
Mark Noble’s corner was bundled in from close range by Demel, though only after Andy Carroll had appeared to foul goalkeeper Simon Mignolet as they challenged in the air.
Referee Anthony Taylor consulted with his assistant referee, flagging furiously, then awarded the goal to the disbelief of Liverpool’s players.
After the interval, Carroll’s back-post header crashed against the crossbar, but with 20 minutes to go, all eyes were again on the referee.
Jon Flanagan tumbled under a challenge from Adrian, though the goalkeeper appeared to make clean contact with the ball, yet Taylor pointed to the spot and Gerrard netted.
In the final moments Suarez tried an audacious lob using the outside of his right foot, which hit the crossbar.
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce felt the performances of the match officials were below par and that referring academies should be set up and professional assistant referees employed.