Liverpool rebounded from conceding an early lead to score two late goals in a 3-2 defeat of West Ham and catapult the Reds into the top 10 for the first time this season.
Brendan Rodgers brought his side to Upton Park on Sunday with no senior strikers at his disposal, following Luis Suárez’ fifth yellow card for a deliberate handball at Southampton last weekend.
Rodgers needed his other players to pick up the slack, and into the breach stepped Glen Johnson, Joe Cole and Jonjo Shelvey, as the Reds continued in fine form, having now lost just one of their last 11 matches, with five wins and five draws.
Liverpool made their intent clear from the beginning with surging runs down the flanks by Glen Johnson and Stewart Downing. Johnson would open the scoring after eluding several defenders, cutting inside and unleashing a rocket past a hapless Jussi Jaaskelainen in goal.
West Ham would recover, however, and were awarded a controversial penalty after Joe Allen was adjudged by referee Lee Probert to have handled the ball in the Liverpool penalty area.
Probert was correct in that the ball did unquestionably strike Allen’s arm, but Guy Demel’s shot came at him at point-blank range, leaving the Liverpool midfielder barely any time to react.
Nonetheless, up to the spot stepped Mark Noble, who converted past Pepe Reina to draw West Ham level in the 36th minute. Seven minutes later Steven Gerrard turned a Matt Jarvis cross into his own net to put West Ham up 2-1 going into the break.
Lucas Leiva made way for Jordan Henderson in the 71st minute, which probably surprised most with more offensive-minded players like Suso and Adam Morgan on the bench for Liverpool.
To Rodgers’ credit, however, Henderson’s appearance, combined with the loss of Hammer’s ace, Mohamed Diamé to injury would soon turn the tide in favor of the visitors from the northwest.
Shelvey and Raheem Sterling combined down the left side of the attack before Sterling slipped a through pass for Joe Cole. The former West Ham captain composedly slotted the ball far post to draw Liverpool level, muting any celebration in front of his former fans.
Three minutes later it was Henderson’s turn to provide the assist, driving a low front-post cross into Shelvey’s path. James Collins’ stuck a defensive leg in to intercept, only to haplessly loop the ball past his own keeper. Shelvey was unabashed in his celebrations, as was Liverpool.
As always, player ratings are presented by position (back-to-front) below, along the following guidelines:
10: Exceptional—superlative performances only.
9: Excellent—outstanding performance.
8: Impressive—very influential game.
7: Very good—eye-catching game.
6: Average—good game, but nothing overly impressive.
5: Below Average—decent performance, but with some faults.
4: Poor—many faults, performance stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Additionally, any performance that affects the outcome of the game will increase or decrease a player’s rating by half a point (.5).
Reina— the Spanish custodian had a good day despite giving up two goals neither of which he could be faulted for. Grade 7
Glen Johnson— Easily Liverpool’s Man of the Match. Johnson was terrific in the early attack, scoring a goal and nearly setting up another, as Sterling should have done better with Johnson’s pass just outside the box. Defensively he had an uneventful day and balanced his offensive and defensive responsibilities with aplomb. Grade 8
Martin Skrtel— The Slovakian had a rare off-day for Liverpool, but this was more down to the sheer brilliance on the day by Carlton Cole, than any deficiencies in Skrtel’s performance. Still, time after time he found himself on the wrong side of the West Ham target man and the result was a lot of nervousness across the back. Grade 6.5
Daniel Agger— Unlike Skrtel, Agger had a much easier time, unshackled of the burden of having to mark Cole. He did well in supporting the attack when he had to, and got his head on several clearances in the Liverpool box. Grade 5
José Enrique (Joe Cole, 27th)— Had an uneventful cameo appearance in his 27 minutes of action before leaving with an unspecified injury. Grade N/A
Stewart Downing— Downing had decent performance early in the game, combining well in attack down the flanks, before disappearing in the second half. Grade 6
Lucas Leiva (Jordan Henderson, 71st)— Returning to Premier League action after lengthy time away with a torn thigh muscle, Lucas had a quietly effective performance in defensive midfield. This was largely due to the fact that he wasn’t called upon to do too much before making way for Henderson. Grade 6
Steven Gerrard— The roller coaster season continues for the Liverpool captain, slotting the pass for Glen Johnson on the opening goal, and then putting West Ham ahead with an inadvertent header into his own net shortly before the half. Sadly, he seems a shell of himself, but for all of his physical failings, it is his decision-making that fails him most often. Grade 5
Joe Allen— Allen was unfortunate to be called for hand ball by the referee, as it did not seem as though he had much of a chance to react before the ball hit him. That aside, he had a very effective game defensively, even if his offensive contribution has slacked off of late. Grade 6
Jonjo Shelvey— “False nine” will not be Shelvey’s favorite role on the team, but to his credit he did what was asked of him despite the ill fit. His hard work on the day paid off with the goal at the end, regardless whether it went in off him or the defender. Grade 7
Raheem Sterling— Not the greatest game to celebrate reaching manhood, but Sterling would still be proud of his effort, if not his execution. Like several of his teammates his activity and contribution dropped off in the second half, but he did enough on the day to keep the west Ham defenders off balance. Grade 6
Cole— Had a rather uneventful day until the goal, but his finish was just clinical enough to both elude Jaaskelainen’s reach, and to remind Liverpool of what they have been lacking for the better part of two seasons. Grade 7
Henderson— He came and provided a bit of a spark even before providing the assist on the winning goal. Grade 7