LONDON: West Ham stayed firmly rooted in the English Premier League relegation zone following a 3-0 defeat by Liverpool here at Upton Park yesterday.
Milan Baros and Steven Gerrard put Liverpool 2-0 up within nine minutes while Emile Heskey completed the scoring in the second half with his second goal in as manay matches.
All of Liverpool’s goals came from Norwegian international John Arne Riise corners, a clear sign of the Hammers’ defensive frailty.
Liverpool stay sixth in the table although they closed the gap on fifth-placed local rivals Everton, and Chelsea, who occupying the last automatic Champions League qualifying position in fourth, to three points.
However Gerard Houllier’s men still trail leaders Arsenal by 14 points.
West Ham, who saw relegation rivals Bolton and West Brom both win on Saturday, remained second bottom with only Sunderland beneath them.
Afterwards Liverpool manager Houllier said making it into the Champions League was now the club’s priority.
“Our aim is to get into the top four. I don’t think we can win the title,” Houllier admitted.
And the Frenchman had some words of comfort for West Ham manager Glenn Roeder. “I feel sympathy for Glenn. He came up against a strong Liverpool side. But he’s got good players.
“We caught them on set pieces and we worked a bit harder than they did.
“Our season starts from here,” Houllier insisted. “The squad’s woking hard for each other and allied to the individual brilliance from our players that can produce results.”
Hammers fans who imagined that Wednesday’s 2-1 home win over Blackburn – the club’s first league victory at Upton Park this season – was the start of a revival were soon brought back to harsh reality.
In the seventh minute Riise’s corner from the right saw Czech forward Baros rise unchallenged inside the six yard box.
Baros’ free header gave former Liverpool keeper David James no chance. It was his sixth goal of the season
Barely two minutes later Liverpool had their second from a similar position.
This time England keeper James came to punch another Riise corner but failed to make good contact among a throng of bodies.
The ball fell to Liverpool and England midfielder Gerrard on the edge of the box and his powerful low shot from 20 yards sped into the far corner to make it 2-0.
When West Ham did get forward strikers Paolo di Canio and Les Ferdinand were repeatedly caught offside.
In the second half the Hammers were sparked into life by the 55th minute arrival of French striker Frederic Kanoute, on as a substitute for Ferdinand.
He twice went close in as many minutes but both his well-struck shots just cleared the crossbar after some stylish approach play.
Rufus Brevett, recently signed from Premiership rivals Fulham, came off the bench to replace veteran full-back Nigel Winterburn, suffering with a hand injury, in the 59th minute.
But he could do nothing about another defensive lapse that led to Liverpool’s third in the 67th minute.
Riise’s inswinging delivery went deep to the back post where Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia, who had been marked by Kanoute before the Frenchman lost concentration, headed the ball back.
West Ham thought the ball had gone out of play and all but stopped while England forward Heskey stole in at the near post to nod home.
At the other end, Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek, in for the injured Chris Kirkland, was eventually forced into a save in the 73rd minute when, following Kanoute’s cross, he blocked di Canio’s shot from six yards out. – AFP