Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool 4 - 1 West Ham: Pool win marred as Rodgers sweats over Gerrard fitness

By Carl Markham

Liverpool face an anxious wait to discover the extent of Steven Gerrard's hamstring injury which could not have come at a worse time just ahead of the busy festive programme.

The Reds captain limped off 10 minutes into the second-half of the 4-1 win over West Ham and will have scans in the next couple of days which will almost certainly rule him out of next weekend's trip to Tottenham.

Fellow midfielder Jordan Henderson left Anfield with a protective boot on his right foot after a tackle from Kevin Nolan which saw the Hammers skipper sent off late on - but the England international is optimistic he will be fine for the game at White Hart Lane.

Even if that is the case it still gives manager Brendan Rodgers a headache as he would have wanted his influential captain to be available against one of their top-four rivals.

The real worry for Rodgers will be how long Gerrard is expected to be sidelined for as after the December 21 visit of Cardiff his side have to play at Manchester City and Chelsea in the space of 72 hours.

With striker Daniel Sturridge already ruled out with a sprained ankle until mid-January, Gerrard's absence would place an even greater burden on Luis Suarez.

Not that the Uruguay international will mind as he has been the key player all season – and he missed the first five league matches.

Suarez maintained his two-goal advantage over Manchester City's Sergio Aguero as the Premier League's leading scorer by taking his tally to 14 with an 81st minute header against the Hammers.

He may yet find his total is increased as his shot from distance three minutes later deflected off defender Joey O'Brien and past Jussi Jaaskelainen – an effort the dubious goals panel will have to adjudicate on.

The panel may also be called upon to rule on Liverpool's second as Mamadou Sakho was credited with the goal from Gerrard's free-kick, only for Martin Skrtel to later lay claim to the final touch.

That may have been offset by his own goal at the other end, when he turned in Matt Jarvis' header to make it 2-1 and hand West Ham their best spell of the match.

Suarez, who had a hand in the opening goal when Jaaskelainen pushed his angled shot into Guy Demel and it rebounded past the Hammers goalkeeper, had the final say however and now, more than ever, Liverpool's Champions League fate appears to lie with him.

His goal – or goals – made victory safe at Anfield and assured the Reds of a return to second place after Manchester City and Chelsea both slipped up.

With almost half the season gone and Liverpool averaging two points a game the omens point towards a top-four finish.

Rodgers, however, refuses to look that far ahead.

"We just keep going. It is each game at a time. It was always going to be difficult from the first game," he said.

"These were games that were tough for us last year but give credit to the players for making it more straightforward."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph