Liverpool hammer Hammers in London
LONDON, England (AP):
Philippe Coutinho starred as Liverpool emphatically maintained control of its Champions League qualification hopes with a 4-0 win over West Ham yesterday.
Coutinho set up Daniel Sturridge before adding a superb double of his own to ensure Liverpool can secure its place in the English Premier League's top four by beating relegated Middlesbrough in next weekend's season finale at Anfield.
The victory takes Liverpool back to third four points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal.
"We were a really deserved winner. The start in the second half was brilliant. We played really good football and we were more direct," Klopp said.
"Nobody will go into this game and underestimate Middlesbrough. But if we can be as focused and fluent as today, then it will be difficult (for Middlesbrough)."
A five-match unbeaten run had lifted West Ham to 12th in the table, but it was unable to replicate the intensity it showed when beating Tottenham in its previous game.
"I'm very disappointed with the way we played. We wanted to put in a similar performance to the one against Spurs, but it wasn't to be," West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, said.
"If you give time and space to players like Coutinho, Lallana and Sturridge, then sooner or later, they'll kill you."
Liverpool set out to attack, producing an entertaining encounter at the Olympic Stadium as West Ham was left space to counter.
Wing back Sam Byram almost gave West Ham an early lead when he shot inches wide before Liverpool wasted a chance of its own as Joel Matip headed Coutinho's corner onto the crossbar.
There were warning signs for West Ham as Sturridge, making just his sixth Premier League start of the season, threatened with a couple of long-range efforts before Coutinho provided the clear opening he'd been waiting for.
Playing in a deeper than usual role, the Brazilian picked the ball up just inside his own half and released Sturridge, who calmly rounded West Ham goalkeeper Adrian before slotting into the empty net.
West Ham should have been level just before the break, but Andre Ayew instead, added a late contender for miss of the season.
Manuel Lanzini's corner fell to Ayew at the back post just two yards (metres) from goal, but he could only direct his shot onto the post, before doing the same with the rebound and allowing Liverpool 'keeper Simon Mignolet to dive on the loose ball.
Liverpool took note of its warning and emerged after half-time with renewed intent as Adam Lallana, Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum all forced saves from Adrian within the space of a minute.
Wijnaldum came close once more as his stunning long-range volley thudded onto the crossbar before being cleared to Coutinho, who evaded three defenders and found the bottom corner from the edge of the box to double Liverpool's lead in the 57th.
West Ham was left incensed as referee Neil Swarbrick waved play on when the ball struck Wijnaldum's hand in the Liverpool penalty area before the Dutch midfielder immediately raced forward to supply the assist for Coutinho's second at the other end.
Having initially led the counterattack himself, Coutinho received the ball back from Wijnaldum before skipping past James Collins and finishing powerfully from close range.
Liverpool rounded off its impressive second-half display in the 76th when the increasingly confident Sturridge showed sublime skill to help set up a tap-in for Divock Origi.