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Liverpool go top and equal home record as super sub Diogo Jota sinks West Ham

Andy Hunter at Anfield
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Peter Powell/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Peter Powell/Reuters

Who needs five substitutes when two will do? Jürgen Klopp may be championing the return of the five substitutes’ rule but all Liverpool required was the potent introduction of Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri to complete another comeback victory, move three points clear at the top of the Premier League and equal a club record of 63 league games unbeaten at Anfield.

West Ham had good reason to rue the quality on the champions’ bench. David Moyes’s side defended tenaciously, attacked dangerously – whenever they were able to gain possession from Liverpool, that is – and delivered a performance that underlined the progress they are making this season. Yet they still ended up suffering the same fate as 28 of the previous 29 Premier League visitors to Anfield. Defeat.

Related: As Liverpool seek Anfield record how do they compare with Paisley greats? | Andy Hunter

For the third league game in succession Liverpool conceded first but laughed last. For the third game in succession, and second consecutive league game at home, Jota showed his value even in a team stacked with world-class striking talent by getting on the scoresheet. His winner arrived five minutes from time, a clinical finish after being released inside the penalty area by a sublime pass from Shaqiri. It would have been his second of the night but VAR and the referee, Kevin Friend, disallowed another predatory finish from the Portugal international minutes earlier.

“That shows the quality they can bring on and probably why other clubs didn’t want so many substitutes this season,” admitted the West Ham manager. “You have to say it gives the bigger clubs a better chance if they have five subs to bring on but player welfare is more important and I wouldn’t be against it if the decision was overturned.”

Klopp gave Nathaniel Phillips a Premier League debut in the heart of the Liverpool defence with Fabinho joining Virgil van Dijk and Joël Matip on the injury list. The 23-year-old enjoyed a fine game, commanding the area and reading his challenges well, and was named man of the match by Jamie Carragher, who knows a thing or two about the role.

Joe Gomez, the more experienced of Liverpool’s two central defenders, was less convincing and culpable for Pablo Fornals’ early breakthrough. Angelo Ogbonna instigated the opener with an intelligent pass out of central defence to Jarrod Bowen, who had time and space to release Aaron Cresswell on the left. Arthur Masuaku took over and crossed into the area where Gomez headed what should have been a routine clearance straight to the unmarked Fornals. The Spanish midfielder punished the lapse with a low shot that beat Alisson via the foot of his right-hand post.

Alisson lunges to his right in vain as Pablo Fornals opens the scoring.
Alisson lunges to his right in vain as Pablo Fornals opens the scoring. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/AFP/Getty Images

With Declan Rice alert and assured in central midfield, and the visitors switching to 5-4-1 out of possession, Moyes’s side defended their lead comfortably for much of the first half. They had a few let-offs, not least when Mo Salah sent Sadio Mané racing through on goal with a deft touch. Cresswell cut across the striker inside the area but Friend waved play on and, after West Ham were unable to scramble clear, Jordan Henderson side-footed inches wide. Trent Alexander-Arnold, making his 100th Premier League appearance for his boyhood club at 22, swept another decent chance from a free-kick into the wall.

Liverpool were starting to toil against the well-drilled banks of West Ham’s midfield and defence when they were awarded a soft penalty shortly before the interval. Curtis Jones crossed to Salah on the right of the box and he was caught on the calf by Masuaku as he brought the ball under control. There was contact, and Salah made the most of it. Tellingly, there were no protestations from the West Ham wing-back when Friend pointed to the spot and Salah drilled the spot-kick down the middle of Lukasz Fabianski’s goal.

Moyes said: “I don’t think it was a penalty kick. He threw himself to the ground. Arthur thought the referee was going to do something about Salah throwing himself to the ground but it went the other way.”

Fornals needed to be more clinical when passing up two opportunities to restore West Ham’s lead early in the second half. Both went begging, and West Ham were ultimately forced deeper by Liverpool’s dominance in possession and the fresh legs of Jota and Shaqiri.

Fabianski produced a smart save to deny Mané after the Senegal international was set up by Jota. The ball squirmed back to the substitute when the goalkeeper, Mané and Ogbonna all descended on the rebound and the Portugal international converted with ease. VAR, however, reviewed a possible foul by Mané as he challenged for the loose ball with Ogbonna and Fabianski. Friend consulted his monitor and agreed. No goal.

But Liverpool, thanks to their substitutes, would not be denied a 52nd victory in their record-equalling unbeaten home run. “Diogo is in a good moment and is a good player,” said Klopp. “I’m really happy that we could make that signing. It is a proper win-win situation: we can help him and he can help us.”