DJIBRIL DOUBLE KEEPS REDS IN THE RACE
Liverpool have kept hopes of a 2nd placed Premiership finish alive after two goals from Djibril Cisse gave them a 2-1 victory over their FA Cup Final opponents West Ham at Upton Park tonight in a game that saw Luis Garcia sent off.
The Reds have closed to within three points of Manchester United after a goal in either half from Cisse gave them three points despite Nigel Reo-Coker’s 46th minute equalizer for West Ham. And with two games left to play, Liverpool continue to have more than just the FA Cup to play for.
The night ended sourly for Liverpool’s Luis Garcia and West Ham’s Hayden Mullins when they were both sent off after an 82nd minute scuffle and they will now both miss the Cup Final. Liverpool though might choose to appeal Garcia’s dismissal as it appeared he least deserved a red card.
Rafa Benitez named a vastly changed team for this Liverpool’s penultimate away game of the season so this was far from a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup Final as many of the leading actors had been given the night off.
You could be sure though that those who did play would do everything in their power to try and force their way onto Cardiff’s big stage for the May 13th showpiece. And in keeping with Rafa, West Ham boss Alan Pardew made five changes of his own.
The night begun with a tribute to West Ham legend John Lyall, who sadly passed away last week. And when the match got under way it was the Hammers who threatened first when Bobby Zamora shot against the legs of Carragher when well placed.
The Reds quickly began to assert themselves on the game though and Djibril Cisse twice fired a shot at goal as some forward thinking produced three corners in quick succession.
Cisse had started the game well and he was to make it third time lucky when he gave the Reds the lead in the 19th minute. It came when Sissoko broke from midfield and when he gave the ball to Cisse he drilled a superb shot into the net from 25 yards.
West Ham responded with Benayoun forcing a good stop out of Dudek, but it was Liverpool and in particular Cisse who continued to look more dangerous. And Robbie Fowler came close in the 30th minute with a chip that had Walker sweating before Cisse forced the Hammer’s 'keeper into another save with a 35th minute shot.
The home side came into the game as we crept towards half time and both Benayoun and Sheringham went close to levelling the scores, but Liverpool hung on to take a deserved lead into the break.
That lead wasn’t to last long though because West Ham equalized through Nigel Reo-Coker in the 46th minute. Liverpool hardly having time to organise themselves again after the restart when Reo-Coker took Zamora’s pass and beat Dudek from 6 yards.
The Reds cleared their heads quickly and Morientes shot against the crossbar after a good run and cross from Sissoko. But buoyed by their goal, West Ham began to grow in confidence and soon had Liverpool defending again. We had something of an end to end game.
It took a last ditch tackle from Jamie Carragher to deprive Reo-Coker a chance of a second, but as the game swung again it was Djibril Cisse who doubled his tally when taking Fowler’s fine pass and making it 2-1 with a shot under that went under Walker in the 54th minute.
Cisse was now on a hat-trick and it would have been his first for the club, but try as he might, he just couldn’t find a third. Dietmar Hamann had a go at making the game safe with a 68th minute shot that went wide, but although West Ham briefly threatened an equalizer, the points were already secured.
The win was to come at a price though when Luis Garcia, who had only just come on, was sent off with West Ham’s Hayden Mullins after an 82nd minute scuffle that ended with Mullins raising his hands to Garcia’s face.
It ?s Aston Villa at Anfield next for Liverpool and you can be sure they won’t give up the fight to overhaul Manchester United until it’s mathematically impossible. They’ve now won nine games in a row and in this form you wouldn’t rule it out.
West Ham United: Walker, Ward, Collins, Ferdinand, Scaloni, Etherington, Mullins, Reo Coker, Benayoun, Sheringham, Zamora. Subs - Ephraim, Fletcher, Harewood, Hislop, Reid
Liverpool: Dudek, Warnock, Carragher, Traore, Finnan, Cisse, Hamann, Sissoko, Kromkamp, Fowler, Morientes. Subs - Alonso, Garcia, Hyypia, Reina, Riise