Liverpool 5-1 West Ham United
Anfield, League Cup quarter-final
20 December 2023
Goals: Szoboszlai 28’, Jones 56’ 85’, Gakpo 72’, Salah 82’; Bowen 78’
Caoimhin Kelleher – 7 (out of 10)
Lots of nice footwork in the first half, passing out to both flanks, getting plenty of hip flexor workouts in the progress. Not a lot else, mind, as West Ham didn’t attack.
His first big goalkeeping contribution of note came before the hour mark with a brave, flying punch clear. Beaten and had no chance by Bowen’s curler.
Joe Gomez – 8
Just another really good Joey G performance. Much more marauding right-back than inverted quarterback this time, which doubtless aided him, but he got forward to good effect and defended well throughout.
An air-kick attempt reminded us why he’s still without a senior goal, but then he almost scored a Messi-esque dribble from halfway line, saved at the near post in the end. Finished the game at left-back.
Jarell Quansah – 8
A magnificent first 45, topped off by a brilliant challenge on the edge of the box, an interception against a counter-attack and then immediately a pass to Szoboszlai which proved to be an assist.
Another example of why he’s so highly-rated, though arguably the last 20 minutes showed why he’s also better alongside Van Dijk at the moment – needs a few pointers and reminders not to hurtle out of position.
Lost a single battle all night and that resulted in Bowen bending one top corner – a big lesson, but overall a hugely impressive night.
Virgil van Dijk – 8
Has been in imperious form of late and very much continued that here for the first hour before a pre-planned sub.
The best thing about Van Dijk is you don’t need to mention too much of what he does: he simply makes sure everything goes according to plan.
Kostas Tsimikas – 8
Recovered well from one error of judgement to make a good challenge and immediately clear up the danger.
Made another great recovery slide to clear away a dangerous cross at the start of the second half, while at the other end made constant overlapping runs to deliver a few good crosses. His best all-round game for a while.
Wataru Endo – 8
Some decent movement to pick the ball up off the defence on the turn, and some incisive passing through midfield to set us back on our way. Not the biggest test he’ll have in terms of physicality or closing him down, but still was far better than anything the Hammers had to offer in midfield.
Won possession or mopped up loose passes countless times.
Dominik Szoboszlai – 7
Started the match being a bit sloppy in possession again, as has been the case in the last few matches, but made up for that by pinging an unstoppable hit into the far bottom corner to open the scoring.
Not back to his best yet but hopefully that’s a big step in the right direction.
Curtis Jones – 10 – Man of the Match
Jones back in the Liverpool team; Liverpool back to controlled, fast-moving, incisive attacking play. Not that he was responsible for absolutely every element of the first half performance, but it happens far too often for it to be coincidence.
The Scouser is nearly immaculate in so much of his work and totally deserved his goals – a first and second of the season – which came after so much retention, ball-winning, offering himself in space and great counter-pressing.
A left-footed finish from a narrow angle, then a solo run past five and buried it bottom corner.
Harvey Elliott – 9
The best player on the pitch first half. From his right-sided forward role, Elliott had terrific work rate and intelligent movement right from kick-off, while he also picked clever passes into the box and had a couple of decent efforts himself.
Still needs to either learn how to kick the ball much harder or stop shooting from 25 yards out, but we’ll forgive him a few long-rangers after his late winner at Palace.
Central midfield again for the last half-hour and kept the control along with his industry. Slightly quieter second half so pipped by Jones to top Red.
Darwin Nunez – 8
Back to chaos version of Darwin, from the left. A few frustrating offsides and missed chances to shoot, but also a couple of moments where he looks unstoppable, flicking the ball past a defender or Cruyff-turning in the box and smacking a shot at goal.
Set up Jones for the second goal with a fine through-ball and kept running at defenders all night long, before crashing one back off the post late on. Back on the wing again for Arsenal?
Cody Gakpo – 7
While plenty of players seized their chance in the lineup or put in a much-improved shift, Gakpo is still looking for his big turn-up in fortunes, but maybe a late goal here can be that.
Too weak too often and not proactive enough when it came to making runs from deep – he was effectively back in as a false nine, starting much lower than Nunez has in a central role.
One header off-target when he should have done better was fairly typical of his recent contributions, but cutting in and burying a low shot from range for 3-0 was far more direct and effective. Too often he simply stops running though, be it inside the box or in open play.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (on for Endo, 60′) – 7 – Half an hour at holding mid. Lots of passes spread about the pitch and an outrageous long pass assist for Salah.
Mohamed Salah (on for Szoboszlai, 60′) – 8 – Teed up Elliott for a chance then couldn’t quite finish twice: once skying a right-footer, then scuffing wide of an open goal on the stretch. Save them for Saturday? Nope, he scored a minute later instead.
Ibrahima Konate (on for Van Dijk, 60′) – 7 – Came on to bring fire and brimstone. Assisted the third after running 60 yards in possession.
Conor Bradley (on for Tsimikas, 68′) – 7 – A few nice touches, a confidence-booster after his European struggles recently.
Luis Diaz (on for Gakpo, 78′) – n/a – Played centre-forward for the final 15.
Subs not used: Adrian, McConnell, Clark, Gordon
Jurgen Klopp – 10
The boss went with a fairly strong lineup, though with the expected few rotations – Salah, Alexander-Arnold, Konate – given respite from starting due to the upcoming Arsenal clash at the weekend.
But far more importantly, the team was more incisive, more energetic, had more intent and looked more dangerous than in recent games.
It’s not just the Man United draw we’re looking at, but several recent games which have been won despite low-key performances.
Here, though, the Reds were at it and much better from minute one through to 90, swarming a below-par West Ham – Klopp now really needs to make sure we get the exact same thing at home against Arsenal on Saturday.
His big calls will come on starting Nunez or Gakpo, Gomez or Tsimikas, but the rest of the side likely picks itself. For this, everything Jurgen decided pretty much went right and the Reds have a semi-final to look forward to.