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What embarrassed Michail Antonio refused to do after Liverpool beat West Ham



Liverpool match verdict as Paul Gorst reports on 3-1 win at home to West Ham United in the Premier League.

If only for his own sake, it’s just as well Michail Antonio is unable to place any bets.

The West Ham United striker raised a fair few eyebrows in the build-up to his latest visit to Anfield with a bold, bombastic claim about not only winning but also finishing above Liverpool in this season’s Premier League.

“You know what, I think we are going to finish higher than Liverpool this season,” suggested Antonio earlier this week on his podcast with Newcastle United’s Callum Wilson. “I’m putting it out there.”

While such boasts are not necessarily to be discouraged in the era of media-trained blandness, the comments did present an illustration of how Jurgen Klopp’s team is being more widely overlooked now after the difficulties of last term; a campaign that, for all its obvious, deep-rooted problems, still took a top-four push until the final week back in May.

Another 3-1 victory for Klopp’s team – their third in eight days – was enough to ensure that Antonio’s insistence that his team would take maximum points at Anfield fell hopelessly flat.

Now up to second in the Premier League – and with the manager once more back in full fist-pumping motion in front of the Kop after the final whistle – it seems normal service is slowly resuming for the Reds.

For the fourth game in a row, a free-scoring Liverpool rattled in three past the opposition as Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota added to their respective tallies.

Throw the electric bursts of Luis Diaz and the smooth motoring of Cody Gakpo into the equation and Liverpool have the sort of firepower that will be the envy of most of Europe, never mind the Premier League. Sixteen of their 18 goals so far have now been shared between that front five and it will be fascinating to see who tops the list in May. Keep them all fit and the possibilities for this entire campaign are mouthwatering.

After 11 changes for the Europa League win over LASK on Thursday, Klopp made eight in total this time around as the likes of Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai and Andy Robertson returned to the side.

After a sluggish start, the Reds took the lead from the penalty spot 16 minutes after Salah was fouled at the end of a sweeping attack involving Diaz and Nunez by Nayef Aguerd. The Egyptian belted the ball down the middle for his fourth of the season and second of the week.

It was Salah’s 13th goal involvement in as many games and took his tally for those particular metrics to a whopping 54 since the start of last season (20 assists and 34 goals). For all that talk about Saudi Arabian interest – chatter that will only intensify as it gets closer to January – there is surely merit in exploring the possibility of attempting to extend his stay on Merseyside. His enduring brilliance is showing no signs of dimming as he moves further into his 30s.

For two players who were maligned at times last term, Joe Gomez, at right-back, and Joel Matip stood up superbly to the considerable set-piece threat of West Ham, with Matip in particular largely shackling Antonio, who left to ironic cheers in the second half.

Gomez was asked to reprise the hybrid full-back role usually demanded of Trent Alexander-Arnold and while the centre-back would prefer to be at the heart of the backline, he was impressive nonetheless. One particular swivel and drive through midfield in the first half would’ve made Alexander-Arnold blush and this was another huge stride forward for the defender.

West Ham forced their way back into the game when Jarrod Bowen stooped to expertly head a Vladimir Coufal cross past Alisson Becker towards the end of the first half but a blistering second ensured the points remained on Merseyside.

First Nunez, after earlier lashing wide in front of the Kop, provided a much more controlled finish past Alphonse Areola following a sublime, deft clip over the top from Alexis Mac Allister. It means the Uruguayan is now supplying a goal contribution every 52 minutes on average. He looks like a player transformed this season.

And it was left to Jota, perhaps the best poacher in the squad, to wrap things up late on when he converted from close range after Van Dijk’s knockdown. Game over.

So Liverpool scored three times for the fourth game running and racked up a sixth successive victory in the process. It’s now 18 unbeaten in a run that dates back to April. Who could’ve predicted it? Certainly not Antonio, who was unsurprisingly not feeling as talkative inside Anfield after the game when he turned down the chance to speak to the media.

Someone else who did not stop to chat was Liverpool chairman Tom Werner, but his beaming smile said it all as he also made his way past the assembled reporters at full-time. After watching on in Austria on Thursday, Werner will no doubt have plenty of positive feedback to deliver to the rest of Fenway Sports Group at their next board meeting. It’s very early days, still, but something is stirring once more here.


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