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Lackluster Liverpool held by Hammers
by Ian Plenderleith, December 2nd, 2008 7AM



[ENGLAND] Liverpool went clear of Chelsea by a point at the top of the Premier League after tying at home to West Ham United in the Monday night game. But the 0-0 home draw was greeted with boos from the fans after a limp performance in which Liverpool looked just as likely to lose as it did to win.
West Ham defended well and often restricted the home team to speculative long-range efforts or chances from dead-ball situations, while occasionally threatening on the counterattack. In the first half, Craig Bellamy thumped the Liverpool post with a long-distance effort, while Liverpool defender Sami Hyppia came close twice on headers following corner kicks. In the second, a frenetic ending with chances at both ends couldn't disguise the mediocrity of the game overall as Liverpool failed to break down the east London club's well-organized backline.
The league leader has scored only 21 goals in 15 games, and with striker Fernando Torres out injured and Robbie Keane having scored just once in 15 league games, the team seems too reliant on Steven Gerrard's shooting for its goals. Unfortunately, although the England midfielder often makes the highlight reels with impressive goals from outside the penalty area, he more often than not blazes the ball wide or well over the bar.
Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt, although much improved this season, is too inconsistent to make up the shortfall in attack, reflected in the near-post chance close to the end that he hit straight at West Ham's impressive keeper Robert Green. Green also made a flying finger-tip save off Yossi Benayoun. At the other end, Carlton Cole's header from a corner kick went just wide, then substitute Luis Boa Morte hopelessly squandered a chance when he lacked the killer touch to exploit the space he found himself in at the top of the Liverpool box.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said that although he was "disappointed" in the result, his team's second successive home 0-0 tie, "the positive thing now is that we are top of the table. We have to analyze why we cannot win these games, but we must also enjoy the position we are in." West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola was meanwhile "impressed and delighted. We were very, very solid." His team is 13th, with 18 points.
Goals scored Nov. 29-Dec. 1: 20 in 10 games (2.0 per game)
Goals scored 2008-09 season: 387 in 149 games (2.6 per game)


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