Reds fans right to fret after dour performance but don't panic just yet

James Pearce admits there are concerns about Liverpool's performances - but there will be more twists and turns in the title race

This isn't the time for knee-jerk reactions. Don't reach for the panic button.

Liverpool are three points clear at the top of the Premier League table with 13 matches remaining.

It's February and Jurgen Klopp's side have lost one league game all season. Their fate is still very much in their own hands. A sense of perspective has to be retained.

This title race is far from being run - more twists and turns are guaranteed over three nerve-jangling months.
See how we rated the players against West Ham here

However, any Kopites not fretting after a dour night in the capital are kidding themselves.

This wasn't the performance of champions-elect. Far from it. This was the display of a heavily depleted side enduring their first real wobble of the campaign.

Substitute Divock Origi could have been the hero deep into stoppage time when he latched on to Naby Keita's scooped pass but he failed to paper over the cracks.

His tame finish lacked both belief and conviction – it summed up Liverpool's efforts at the London Stadium.

In truth the Reds didn't deserve anything more than a share of the spoils. They were sadly lacking in all departments.

If last week's draw with Leicester was laced with a sense of injustice as big decisions went against them, there could be no complaints about this stalemate.

They got lucky when the flag wrongly stayed down in the build up to Sadio Mane's opener and then shot themselves in the foot with the abject defending which enabled Michail Antonio to equalise.

This was Liverpool with a veteran midfielder at right-back, their fourth choice centre-back on duty and two thirds of their first choice midfield missing and it showed.

The swagger they had before the turn of the year has disappeared in recent weeks and Klopp needs to rediscover it fast. The sooner reinforcements climb off the treatment table the better.

Having only dropped six points from their opening 20 games, Liverpool have now taken just eight points out of the last 15 on offer.

That's a blip rather than a crisis but with the bar set so high this season the Reds can't afford to keep giving Manchester City such encouragement.

It wasn't just a case of key men being absent, others were out there but simply went AWOL.

Roberto Firmino delivered arguably his worst performance in a Liverpool shirt and Mohamed Salah only briefly flitted into life.

For all the talk about the Reds handling the pressure, the biggest worry is that they looked so short of both energy and ideas.

It had been a bad start to the day for the Reds with confirmation that Joe Gomez had undergone surgery on his leg followed by the news that Jordan Henderson (minor muscle problem) and Gini Wijnaldum (sore knee) had joined Dejan Lovren, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the lengthy list of absentees.

With Klopp's options severely limited, there was a first Premier League start since October for Adam Lallana. Fabinho and James Milner also earned recalls.

England international Lallana, who has endured an injury-plagued 18 months, lined up alongside Fabinho and Naby Keita.

It was a midfield trio which had never played together and you could tell as the Hammers repeatedly carved through Liverpool in the opening quarter of the contest.

The Reds were lethargic and sloppy with the hosts combative and forcing a steady succession of mistakes.

There was an early scare when Mark Noble fed Javier Hernández, who cut inside and fired narrowly wide.

The warning wasn't heeded and the Reds continued to make problems for themselves as Aaron Cresswell drilled just past the post after a poor touch from Milner.

Liverpool were alarmingly lightweight in the middle of the park as Keita was brushed aside. He improved in the second half but still hasn't come close to living up to expectations since his move from RB Leipzig.

Alisson Becker was forced into action by a sweetly struck 20-yarder from Hernandez.

Part of Klopp's game plan was clearly for the Reds to hit long diagonal passes from deep to try to exploit the pace of Salah in behind the Hammers' backline. But the deliveries were wayward and all Liverpool succeeded in doing was repeatedly giving the ball away cheaply.

The Reds broke the deadlock against the run of play midway through the first half.

Lallana did brilliantly wide on the right as he twisted and turned and then flicked the ball into the path of Milner.

The vice-captain was clearly offside but bizarrely the flag stayed down and his low cross picked out Mane, who turned seven yards out and slotted into the corner for his 12 goal of the season.

Liverpool's joy was shortlived as within six minutes West Ham were level.

Expecting Felipe Anderson to whip a free-kick into the box, the Reds were caught napping as he played it down the side for Antonio, who was too strong for Keita and hammered past Alisson.

It was well worked but Liverpool's lack of awareness to the danger was startling. They kept on failing to track runners and were fortunate not to fall behind before the break.

Another set-piece caused havoc and the unmarked Declan Rice wastefully powered a header wide. Mane could have struck a blow at the other end but he nodded Milner's cross straight at Lukasz Fabianski.

The second half brought more of the same as Liverpool huffed and puffed but rarely looked like troubling the Hammers.

Firmino was a pale imitation of his usual self. The No 9's touch kept on letting him down as promising opening quickly disappeared.

Salah belatedly came to life but even his finishing lacked its usual ruthless streak.

Mane and Lallana combined to tee up the Egyptian but he shot straight at the keeper. Salah produced a bit of magic to dart away from Snodgrass in the box soon after but again Fabianski comfortably kept it out.

Liverpool's attempts to generate any kind of momentum were wrecked by the ridiculous flow of unforced errors.

If West Ham had been more clinical on the counter the Reds would have been playing catch up but they remained on level terms.

The visitors were crying out for inspiration from somewhere and Klopp took action with Xherdan Shaqiri replacing Lallana. Origi soon followed for the ineffective Firmino.

Liverpool didn't improve. The subs had no impact. Mark Noble should have made them pay but blazed over after Robert Snodgrass and Anderson had fashioned the chance.

Origi could have completed a smash and raid but fluffed his lines late on. No panic but plenty for Klopp to ponder.


Liverpool: Alisson, Milner, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson, Fabinho, Keita, Lallana (Shaqiri 69), Salah, Firmino (Origi 74), Mane.

Not used: Mignolet, Sturridge, Moreno, Jones, Camacho

West Ham: Fabianski, Fredericks, Ogbonna, Diop, Cresswell, Rice, Noble (Obiang 79), Snodgrass, Antonio, Hernandez (Carroll 79), Anderson (Masuaku 90).

Not used: Adrian, Zabaleta, Perez, Diangana.

Referee: Kevin Friend

Attendance: 59,903

Goals: Mane 22, Antonio 28,

Bookings: Hernandez, Matip

Man of the match: Sadio Mane. Liverpool's most dangerous attacker.


Liverpool player ratings vs West Ham - Keita struggles again as Firmino has a nightmare

Ian Doyle runs the rule over Liverpool's performance after the Reds drop two points against the Hammers

Alisson Becker 7
Made a good save from Hernandez in the first half and couldn't do much about the goal. Did what he had to do.

James Milner 6
Clearly offside before crossing for the opener but that he was up there underlined another hard-working effort at both ends. Did okay against Anderson, albeit often by just fouling him.

Virgil van Dijk 6
Fooled by Hernandez with one early shot but otherwise coped with the forward, particularly – and predictably – in the air. Good tackle late on prevented a Hammers break.

Joel Matip 6
Keen to bring the ball out of defence but stopped that when caught way upfield. Made some important interceptions second half and was Liverpool's best defender.

Andy Robertson 6
Offered himself on the overlap but his crosses rarely found their mark. Bit of a physical mismatch up against Antonio but held pretty firm.

Fabinho 6
In a midfield three, was overworked first half having to cover the gaps left by his fellow midfielders. Steady after the break.

Adam Lallana 6
Great footwork helped create the opener after an understandably slow start. The odd Cruyff turn and some good touches, but tired in the second half. Subbed.

Naby Keita 5
Going forward showed some glimpses in the first half, but defensively had a shocker. Easily brushed off by Antonio for the equaliser but to his credit improved after the break, even if his decision-making did not.

Mohamed Salah 5
Back on the right, didn't threaten much in the first half but began to see some openings after the interval. Needed to be on the ball more, though.

Roberto Firmino 4
Playing up top, the Brazilian had an early shot at Fabianski but became progressively worse and could barely find a team-mate for much of the second half. Mercifully hooked.

Sadio Mane 7
Took his goal very well, saw a glancing header saved and a rare consistent danger whenever in possession.


Xherdan Shaqiri (for Lallana 69) 5
Not what was required.

Divock Origi (for Firmino 75) 5
Missed a great chance with the last kick.

Copyright - The Liverpool Echo

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