Hammers frustrate Reds at Anfield

Liverpool, December 2:

Liverpool went one point clear at the top of the Premier League standing despite suffering a goalless draw at home to West Ham on Monday.

Rafael Benitez’s side replaced Chelsea at the summit but missed an ideal opportunity to open up a healthy lead on their rivals. Liverpool were guilty of wasting a string of chances while Yossi Benayoun was denied by a brilliant save from Robert Green.

But their performance raised more questions than answers as they were held at home by mid-table opposition for the second sccessive home game.

It is 18 years since the title was last celebrated at Anfield yet Liverpool fans started the final month of 2008 optimistic about their club’s prospects of ending that long wait.

Following Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to London rivals Arsenal the previous day, there was no better incentive for Liverpool to clock up their 11th Premier League win of the campaign. Benitez’s men knew that victory would send them three points clear of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side at the summit and eight ahead of third-placed Manchester United.

Not for the first time Liverpool had to cope without Fernando Torres, once again hampered by hamstring problems, yet their record without the Spaniard suggested that his absence would not hurt them. Four of the five previous games with Torres out of the side had ended in victory with the only setback at Tottenham. His absence at least presented Robbie Keane with a chance to end his stuttering form against a team which had lost on their previous seven league visits to Anfield.

Yet it was the unlikely threat of Sami Hyypia who proved the biggest threat to West Ham in the first half. Back in the side in place of Daniel Agger, the veteran Finland defender twice went close to breaking the deadlock in the space of six minutes as the visitors lived dangerously. Green breathed a sigh of relief as Hyypia’s 16th minute header landed on the roof of the net after outjumping the visitors defence. Hyypia went even closer in the 22nd minute when he had a close range effort hacked off the line by Carlton Cole.

West Ham struggled to trouble a Liverpool defence which was seeking a fourth successive clean sheet until a 30-yard thunderbolt from Craig Bellamy sent alarm bells ringing when he rattled Pepe Reina’s post in the 38th minute. Although it was the one and only nervous moment, Liverpool, despite all their possession and attacking threat, were playing like a team with the weight of pressure on their shoulders.