West Ham thwart misfiring Liverpool
Liverpool's hopes of a top-five finish suffered a setback as Brendan Rodgers' team failed to capitalise on countless chances in a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham United on Sunday.
West Ham, still without a victory at Anfield since 1963, defended superbly to collect a point that keeps them away from the Premier League relegation fight, but the afternoon was one of frustration for the home side.
The game was preceded by a minute's silence to mark the anniversary, on April 15, of the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death during an FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield.
Once the game was under way, Liverpool dominated possession, although it was not until first-half injury time that West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen looked remotely flustered.
The Finnish international struggled to cope with a Luis Suarez corner and was required to save twice from full-back Glen Johnson; rare examples of the West Ham number one being put under genuine pressure.
Liverpool manager Rodgers had been forced to make a substitution after only 25 minutes when Daniel Sturridge replaced Stewart Downing, apparently because of injury.
However, the home team could not blame that tactical reshuffle alone for an underwhelming first-half display.
Indeed, with West Ham defending resolutely and content to play on the counter-attack, the better chances arguably fell to Sam Allardyce's side.
After 24 minutes, Mohamed Diame displayed intricate footwork to work his way into the Liverpool area, past three defenders, before shooting narrowly over Pepe Reina's goal from seven yards out.
There were also glimpses of goal for Carlton Cole, playing in place of ineligible Liverpool loanee Andy Carroll, but his shot was bravely blocked by Daniel Agger.
Agger opted for a direct approach early in the second half with a shot from fully 35 yards that deflected off a West Ham defender on its way out for a corner.
Liverpool came closer in the 55th minute when a Suarez attack resulted in the ball breaking kindly for the unmarked Steven Gerrard, whose 15-yard shot looked certain to end up in the Hammers goal until James Tomkins made a desperate goal-line block.
Liverpool supporters were beginning to wonder whether this was to be their afternoon, especially when Suarez drilled a magnificent ball across the face of West Ham's goal without a team-mate able to provide the telling touch.
There were sporadic warnings for Liverpool at the other end, with the Reds fortunate to escape a West Ham penalty appeal when Jose Enrique appeared to trip Tomkins at a Gary O'Neil free-kick.
Sturridge had a goal ruled out for offside after 65 minutes, Philippe Coutinho cut in from the left and placed a shot inches beyond the far post and Suarez, having a frustrating afternoon, chipped a shot just beyond the far post from the edge of the area.
Tomkins tangled with Gerrard soon after, although the penalty appeals came more from The Kop than the Liverpool players, and Gerrard followed that attack with a shot that rose high over the goal from 18 yards.
Sturridge tested Jaaskelainen with a shot through a crowded area and Agger maintained the pressure inside the closing minutes with another of his long-range attempts, this one turned around the post by the goalkeeper.
But West Ham might have stolen an unlikely win five minutes from time when Jack Collinson's header, from an O'Neil corner, looked to be heading into the Liverpool net until Lucas produced an acrobatic clearance off the line.