Liverpool's stuttering start to the new Barclays Premier League season continued as they slipped to a 3-1 defeat at West Ham United, their third loss from the opening five matches.
Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho capitalised on poor defending to give the hosts a surprise lead just seven minutes in to Saturday's match at the Boleyn Ground. Although Raheem Sterling provided hope for the visitors with a 26th-minute goal, West Ham defended well to secure all three points, with substitute Morgan Amalfitano making the match safe late on.
The result marked the Londoners' first home Barclays Premier League win of the campaign, while Liverpool's early title ambitions were again exposed after their defeat at home to Aston Villa on their last Barclays Premier League outing.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce made just one change from the side who drew 2-2 with Hull City, handing a full debut to Alex Song, on loan from Barcelona, in midfield. Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, made three alterations from the midweek UEFA Champions League win over Ludogorets, with Martin Skrtel, Lucas Leiva and Fabio Borini all coming in.
Rodgers again named three close-season signings in the shape of Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren and Javier Manquillo at the back, but that trio could not prevent the visitors from making a poor start in defence. With just two minutes gone, Liverpool's defence allowed James Tomkins to nod a free-kick back across goal, where Reid was on hand unmarked to bundle home.
It went from bad to worse for Liverpool a few minutes later, as Sakho's cross-cum-shot from the right looped over Simon Mignolet to find the far corner of the net.
Rodgers withdrew Manquillo for Mamadou Sakho to switch to a 3-5-2 formation more suited to negating West Ham's threat in the air. But it was at the other end of the pitch where Liverpool were given brief hope of a turnaround.
Mario Balotelli produced a fine piece of control in the penalty area before getting a shot off that was blocked, but Sterling was on hand to smash home the rebound.
West Ham continued to threaten despite that goal and soon caused more disarray in the Liverpool defence that led to Lovren and Sakho clashing heads in the air. The Croat came off worst but managed to continue after a spell of treatment.
Liverpool made a further change after hanging on until the break as Adam Lallana replaced Lucas Leiva at half-time. The introduction of the former Southampton midfielder almost paid immediate dividends as he set up Sterling for a shot from the edge of the box that trickled wide.
Lallana proved to be a catalyst for an improvement in Liverpool's attacking play, although West Ham remained a real threat on the counter-attack.
The former Southampton playmaker set up Borini to drive a shot just wide before, at the other end, the hosts broke at pace and Sakho chipped a shot onto the roof of the net.
Rodgers threw on Rickie Lambert 15 minutes from time in an attempt to find an equaliser, but West Ham killed the match off when Amalfitano toe-poked in Stewart Downing's through-ball at the end of a flowing move with two minutes left.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: "Our higher pressing game was the reason we dominated Liverpool so much in the first half and to score two goals in that early period really stunned the Liverpool players. We carried that right through to the end of the first half and we really took them to task. We played outstandingly well and didn't let Liverpool play at all so the only disappointment was that it was 2-1 at half-time and not more. Having said that, we've won the game, we deserved to win it.
"We've had to give a more solid defensive performance in the second half when Liverpool were going to throw caution to the wind and we've managed to pop up with the third goal at just the right time. Outstanding performance today, particularly the first half, and one where we've deserved everything we've got."
"It's [Alex Song's] first competitive game that he's started today. He didn't play any games in pre-season for Barcelona, so I thought he did tremendously well with the pace of the game to last as long as he did. The front two looked like they'd been here for a long time. The energy that they've got, not just in possession but out of possession I think terrorised Liverpool's back four.
"And we've got Cheikhou Koyate who loves football, loves life, loves being in every day. He's looking like a promising player for us. We've got really good players that we've recruited this season and that has lifted everyone else for me.
"That performance today just shows what level we might be able to achieve this season."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "West Ham will be delighted, they played well. I've got to look at my own team and, for us, we were nowhere near the standard today.
"We made a really slow start and before we knew it were two down. Lots of elements of our game have been very good over the last couple of seasons but it's not really happening for us at the moment. So we've got a lot of work to do. Today was very disappointing in terms of performance."
"I think we showed the potential in the Tottenham game this season. When we have players fit, we showed in that game the real quality and intensity of the team. When those guys aren't available it can really hurt us.
"We still should be better than what we were today so there's no doubt we need to go back out on the training ground and continue to work. We've set a new expectancy at the club, which we have to deal with now. We've got lots of games and Liverpool as a football club is a club teams want to beat but we have to deal with that and we will do."
|27 Sep 2014||v Man Utd (A)|
|05 Oct 2014||v QPR (H)|
|18 Oct 2014||v Burnley (A)|
|25 Oct 2014||v Man City (H)|
|01 Nov 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|08 Nov 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|