Liverpool fuelled further hope they can revive their Premier League title defence as Mohamed Salah’s fine second-half brace earned a 3-1 win at West Ham.
Jurgen Klopp’s men ended a five-match winless run in the league by beating Tottenham 3-1 on Thursday.
And they produced another indication of a resurgence despite the absence of Sadio Mane because of a minor injury, Salah’s double and Georginio Wijnaldum’s late effort moving third-placed Liverpool within four points of leaders Manchester City.
City have a game in hand, but a five-point advantage over fifth-placed West Ham, who got a consolation through Craig Dawson, will at least quell talk of the Reds missing out on the Champions League.
29 – In Mohamed Salah’s 21 Premier League starts for Liverpool without teammate Sadio Mané, he has been directly involved in 29 goals (20 goals & nine assists). Improvised. pic.twitter.com/wv9cJ4K5wf
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 31, 2021
Each side managed just one shot on target in the first half, with Divock Origi particularly profligate as he wasted presentable chances either side of half-time.
Michail Antonio bent a 56th-minute effort wide of the right-hand post, and his failure to find the necessary accuracy was duly punished by Salah.
Curtis Jones replaced James Milner and, within 34 seconds of coming on, he teed up the opener when Salah curled his lay-off into the top-left corner from just inside the area.
Salah’s second owed more to outstanding counter-attacking football than to his individual brilliance as Liverpool pounced after clearing a West Ham corner.
Trent Alexander-Arnold played a stunning cross-field pass to Xherdan Shaqiri, whose last touch before being substituted was a perfect left-wing cross that Salah deftly controlled and flicked beyond Lukasz Fabianski.
The gloss to a superb second-half performance was added in wonderful fashion as substitutes Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain combined neatly, the former teeing up Wijnaldum to tap in a third.
Yet there was a late blemish as Dawson scuffed home a close-range finish from a corner, though it came far too late to prevent their six-match winning run in all competitions from coming to an end.
What does it mean? Reds up ante for imminent City clash
Though they each first have midweek games to contend with, Liverpool’s return to form over the past two games means they should head into next Sunday’s visit of City with the chance to further close the gap at the top.
This was a West Ham performance that perhaps indicated the limits to their ambitions in an impressive season. They are winless in their past 10 Premier League meetings with Liverpool, their worst run against the Reds since another 10-game sequence which stretched from September 2000 to January 2007.
Salah emulates Reds legend
With his clinical performance, Salah became the first player to score 20 goals in all competitions in four consecutive seasons for Liverpool since Ian Rush did so six years running from 1981-82 to 1986-87.
Hammers lacking in attack
West Ham struggled to create chances throughout, with Said Benrahma and Jarrod Bowen (two each) the only home stars to play a key pass. When they did craft openings, they were not taken, with the hosts managing just two shots on target.
Key Opta Facts
– Liverpool have won more Premier League matches versus West Ham than they have against any other side in the competition (31), while only versus Arsenal (32) have the Hammers lost more PL games than they have against Liverpool (31).
– The Reds have lost just one of their past 16 Premier League games in London (W11 D4), winning their most recent three such fixtures and netting 13 goals across those three victories.
– West Ham manager David Moyes is winless in his past 14 Premier League matches against Liverpool (D4 L10), losing each of the last five in a row (all with West Ham).
– Salah has scored nine Premier League goals versus West Ham, his best return against a side in the competition.
– Jordan Henderson made his 286th Premier League appearance for Liverpool, the fourth-most for the club in the competition behind only Jamie Carragher (508), Steven Gerrard (504) and Sami Hyypia (318).
Liverpool host Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield on Wednesday, when West Ham visit Aston Villa.