Liverpool moved into second in the Premier League following a bizarre 4-1 win over West Ham which may well have contained as many as four own goals.
Luis Suarez, rather inevitably, was key to the opener after 42 minutes as it was from his smart, angled shot that Jussi Jaaskelainen parried the ball against the luckless Guy Demel, who watched it dribble back over the line.
Prior to that Liverpool had dominated possession – with Philippe Coutinho linking up play superbly and a rejuvenated Raheem Sterling going close after racing in behind the defence – but they also needed Simon Mignolet to make a fine reaction save to keep out a header from Modibo Maiga.
A one-goal lead became two on 47 minutes when Liverpool profited from more good fortune. Mamadou Sakho got on the end of a deep delivery from Steven Gerrard and got his legs in a tangle, sending the ball looping up and towards James Collins, who couldn’t prevent it from crossing the line and looked to get the final touch.
Liverpool were shorn of captain Gerrard after he sustained a muscle injury and despite having a deluge of chances they allowed West Ham back into the contest when, incredibly, Martin Skrtel scored an own goal of his own, poking home Matt Jarvis’s header from the left.
However, Suarez made the points safe with a header from a glorious Glen Johnson cross on 81 minutes and then – following a red card for Kevin Nolan for a nasty tackle on Jordan Henderson – saw another effort, which was heading wide, take a huge deflection off Joey O’Brien to find the net for a third own goal.
22’ - SUPERB SAVE: A one-handed stop from Mignolet keeps out an angled header from Maiga following a Jarvis cross. That is exceptional.
42’ - GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 West Ham: An own goal from Guy Demel! Suarez has the shot and though Jaaskelainen saves, the ball bounces back off Demel and over the line. Credit to Joe Allen, too, for winning the ball high up the pitch.
48’ - GOAL! Liverpool 2-0 West Ham: A SECOND own goal! This time it’s James Collins. Sakho just about gets Gerrard’s free-kick back across goal but Collins, under pressure from Skrtel, sees the bouncing ball skid off his boot, off the bar and in as he tries to clear off the line.
56’ – GERRARD OFF: The England captain takes a shot but then pulls up and immediately signals he cannot continue. I’m no doctor but that looks suspiciously like a hamstring problem.
62’ - CHANCE FOR LIVERPOOL: A lovely move from Liverpool as they play the ball around superbly. Coutinho, who is pulling all the strings, plays in Henderson and he goes short to Sterling who slips as he shoots and scoops the ball over the bar.
66’ - GOAL! Liverpool 2-1 West Ham!: ANOTHER OWN GOAL! Possibly the third of the match depending on what you made of the Sakho goal. Skrtel pokes over his own line from a Jarvis header back across goal.
72’ - WHAT A MISS: Suddenly it’s all West Ham and the visitors have a huge chance when Collins’ wayward shot rolls to Maiga at the back post, but he takes it on with the wrong foot and can’t hit the target.
81’ - GOAL! Liverpool 3-1 West Ham: Suarez, of course. Coutinho spreads the ball wide with a neat dink to Johnson and the right-back’s cross is sublime, soaring to the back post to find Suarez who heads home.
83’ - RED CARD: Nolan gets a red card for scraping his studs down the back of Henderson’s leg when ostensibly trying to challenge for the ball. Idiotic and nasty. But he’s got Christmas off.
84’ - GOAL! Liverpool 4-1 West Ham: ANOTHER OWN GOAL! ANOTHER! Suarez with the drive but it comes off O’Brien and nestles in the net! That’s four own goals today!
Prior to kick-off, Luis Suarez (13) had scored one more Premier League goal than West Ham had as a team (12) this season (Opta).
West Ham United have not won away in the league at Anfield since 1963, losing 30 and drawing 11 of their subsequent 40 trips since (Infostrada).
The Hammers have scored just seven goals in their last 28 league visits to Anfield, failing to score on 23 occasions including the last five prior to today (Infostrada).
Martin Skrtel has scored his fourth own goal past Liverpool – he moves outright second (behind Jamie Carragher on seven) as scoring most own goals against Liverpool in PL history. He had previous been level with Neil Ruddock on three (Infostrada).
TALKING POINT: This team will self-destruct in…. Not content with scoring two own goals (or three, depending on your tastes) West Ham also saw captain Kevin Nolan pick up a ludicrous red card when raking Henderson from behind. In a game that witnessed 32 shots for the home side, Liverpool didn’t need any extra help. They got it though.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool): In amongst a rather chaotic game – and a flurry of chances – the calm fulcrum at the heart of the Liverpool team was the gifted Brazilian, who spread the ball as he wished and constantly looked for chances to open up the visiting defence.
Liverpool: Mignolet 7, Johnson 8, Sakho 7, Skrtel 6, Flanagan 6, Gerrard 7, Henderson 7, Allen 6, Coutinho 8, Sterling 7, Suarez 8. Subs: Lucas 6, Moses 6, Kelly 6.
West Ham: Jaaskelainen 7, Demel 6, Tomkins 5, Collins 5, McCarthy 5, Downing 5, Noble 6, Nolan 4, Diame 6, Jarvis 6, Maiga 5. Subs: Cole 6, O’Brien 5, Taylor N/A.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET