Evans admits his error
Stan Collymore's early goal sparked Liverpool's seventh win in a row and kept them at the top of the Premiership -- but he then limped off with a knee injury to leave them with a possible striker-crisis. Michael Thomas hit a second-half winner after Slaven Bilic had equalised Collymore's third-minute opener but by then the £8.5 million forward had gone off with a damaged knee.
With Robbie Fowler already missing with a rib injury it forced Liverpool manager Roy Evans to switch Steve McManaman to an emergency frontline role alongside Patrik Berger.
Liverpool always passed the ball around with perfect composure but West Ham's undying enthusiasm threatened to win the match for the Londoners after Bilic had headed a 14th-minute equaliser from a Michael Hughes corner.
It looked like West Ham would be overwhelmed after Collymore outpaced Marc Rieper onto Jason McAteer's through ball and drove it unstoppably past Ludek Miklosko. After Collymore had to retire from the fray Hammers took charge with a gutsy performance in which Julian Dicks hit the crossbar, Hughes was just over with a stunning volley and giant Liverpool goalkeeper David James was at full stretch to stop both Tony Cottee and Iain Dowie.
But the turning point came seven minutes into the second half when Liverpool strung together a necklace of flowing passes ending with McManaman releasing Thomas for a scoring shot into the far corner. Hammers refused to lie down and when they introduced their latest Portuguese signing Hugo Porfirio with 32 minutes left it immediately revived their spirits. It was the tiny Porfirio who manufactured the opening from which Cottee sliced a good chance wide. Then the newcomer was in exciting action again, setting up Cottee for another chance which James smothered at the striker's feet.
Liverpool, however, retained their composure and their possession to slowly take the wind from Hammers' sails. McManaman and substitute Lee Jones both passed up glaring chances to seal their success in the closing minutes after McAteer's shot shaved the crossbar when he was clean through. Liverpool manager Roy Evans admitted his team won their seventh match in a row and stayed top of the Premiership despite his substitution blunder at West Ham.
Goals by Stan Collymore and Michael Thomas were just too much in the end for Hammers who had equalised with Slaven Bilic's powerful 14th minute header from a corner. But Evans admitted he made a mistake in sending on West Ham manager Harry Redknapp's son Jamie when Collymore limped off injured five minutes later. He said: "With hindsight I should have put on young Lee Jones a lot earlier because we had nobody to hold it up at the front for us after Stan went off and we let West Ham back into the game. I probably deserve a slap on the wrist. I've got to hold my hands up and say that I probably confused the situation. And in the end I've got to give great credit to the lads for battling through."
And Evans warned: "We've won seven games in a row but I still think we have a lot more left in the tank. I've probably been a bit out of order saying previously that we've ground out wins without playing particularly well. It has been better than that, but there is still more to come I feel."
Hammers boss Redknapp, however, put the blame squarely on Danish defender Marc Rieper for his team's defeat. Collymore showed Rieper a clean pair of heels when racing through to score after only three minutes and Redknapp said: "He got caught out. It was an appalling piece of defending - scandalous." And the criticism of Rieper did not end there, with Redknapp adding: "I want him to want to receive the ball more. When you are playing central players at the back you need somebody to receive the ball and come out of it. He didn't seem inclined to do that."
Redknapp knew the Hammers wasted a great chance to take advantage of a Liverpool side without injured Mark Wright, Robbie Fowler and then Collymore whose knee injury will be X-rayed tomorrow to discover the full extent of the damage. He said: "We came back and had them under the whip for 35 minutes. We scored a good goal and if you had said at half time that I could have the draw I would not have taken it. But then we got caught again for the second goal and couldn't come back from that. It is very disappointing because both goals were so sloppy."
Redknapp's only consolation was a promising substitute performance from his latest Portugese signing Hugo Porfirio who is on loan from Sporting Lisbon for the rest of the season. Tony Cottee wasted two chances set up by Porfirio's sparkling runs and Redknapp added: "Hugo's been doing things just like that in training during the last few days and is going to be a great asset for us."
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