Me and the other Bleeding Your Colors' boys yearly Brocation took me away from my responsibilities for Liverpool's loss to Aston Villa last weekend and their win over Ludogorets in the Champions League mid-week. The Reds traveled to Upton Park in East London today to play West Ham United. The big change in the lineup for Liverpool was that Fabio Borini would be the man behind Super Mario Balotelli.
It wasn't a pretty start for the away side. An innocuous free kick was awarded fifty seconds in to West Ham along the right flank. The ball came through the penalty box to the far post and it seemed to hang in the air forever. When it finally descended, it was directly to the head of Winston Reid. The New Zealand center half was able to head it past Simon Mignolet to the opposite post to make it 1-0 to the home team. Mignolet could have done a lot better with the initial free kick but Reid's header was powerful and accurate. Reid's elation didn't last for very long though as he went into the book a minute or so later for a clumsy tackle on Borini.
One would have thought that West Ham would take their foot off the gas with such an early goal but the Irons would have lead feet instead. Diafra Sakho sprinted up the sideline on a counter attack and was fed by Mark Noble after Mario Balotelli was dispossessed. What happened next floored Liverpool faithful as the Senegalese attacker chipped Mignolet from almost outside the box. The Belgian keeper looked out of sorts and was left completely flat footed as he watched West Ham's second goal soar over his head.
West Ham didn't let up on Mignolet over the next five minutes. Stewart Downing and Mark Noble ducked and bobbed through the yellow clad back four for Liverpool. Mignolet was forced into a tough save at the twelve minute mark on Aaron Cresswell. He'd see several more efforts over the span of the first half but this one was the most dangerous.
Bad Mario almost burst out in a clash with West Ham keeper Adrian in the 17th minute. The Italian striker was late in on the Hammers netminder for a foul. Instead of just letting the hotheaded striker walk away, Adrian kicked out at him which led to a chest bumping war of words between the two. Both were booked for their troubles. Adrian should thank Mark Noble for pulling him away from Balotelli.
Brendan Rodgers made his first move of the match at a very strange juncture. Javi Manquillo was not playing well but came off uninjured for Mamadou Sakho in the 21st minute. It left commentators and myself scratching our collective heads but it looked as if the Liverpool boss wanted to change up the formation from a back four to a back three. That would allow Alberto Moreno to burst forward as a wing back.
The change of style paid off as some good linking play got the ball to Mario Balotelli in the box. His initial effort was blocked by the West Ham defense but the ball trickled back to the top of the penalty area. Raheem Sterling was there to drill a laser volley to the left side of Adrian to halve the Hammers' advantage, 2-1. Game on!
The questions about concussions in football were brought up again when Dejan Lovren clanged heads with Mamadou Sakho. The Croatian center half looked out on his feet and though he walked off the field it wasn't under his own power. They were down to ten men momentarily but Lovren would reenter the fray with his head haphazardly taped, presumably because of a cut from the clash.
Lovren's injury allowed for six minutes of added time at the end of the first half. West Ham dominated the possession and momentum in that period but could not find that final touch to extend their lead going to the interval. Would they be kicking themselves for not stomping on Liverpool's throat when they were downed?
Liverpool were clearly on the front foot in the opening moments of the second half. Rodgers had introduced Adam Lallana to the contest for Lucas to bring more of an attacking presence to the Reds. Sadly, the former Saint could not make that much of a difference. It would actually be a substitute for the home team that put the final nail in this game's coffin.
Morgan Amalfitano, a deadline day signing for the Hammers from West Bromwich Albion, came on for Alex Song in the 68th minute. It wasn't one of the bigger deals of the first of September but it paid dividends in the 88th minute. Mamadou Sakho, who had been miserable all day, made a mess of a clearance with a crummy header that fell into the path of Stewart Downing. Downing, the former Liverpool midfielder, cemented himself as my man of the match as he sprung forward to find the Frenchman Amalfitano to toe poke it past Simon Mignolet. There was nothing that the big man could do about the effort and it was 3-1, done and dusted.
The Reds will leave the Boleyn Ground in tenth position in the Premier League table while the Hammers ascend to eighth in the League. Will Liverpool be able to rebound from their first two game losing streak in the EPL since December 2013? Can they score without Daniel Sturridge in the lineup? Is there any way they can compete in both the Champions League against the likes of Real Madrid in their group (who scored 8 goals against Deportivo today) and in the Premier League with such a porous defense? We'll see going forward. I'll see you then. #YNWA
Image Credit: Liverpool v. West Ham (empireofthekop.com)