Liverpool: Liverpool substitute Daniel Sturridge capped his comeback from injury with a goal as the Reds beat West Ham United 2-0 at Anfield on Saturday following an inspired display by Raheem Sterling. Sturridge had been available for the first time in a Premier League match since Liverpool's win over Tottenham Hotspur at the end of August.
The England international had been on the sidelines for five months with a combination of calf and thigh injuries. But Sturridge's long battle to regain full fitness was rewarded with a typical goal after Sterling had put Liverpool ahead.
Sturridge had to settle for a place among the substitutes, although that was more than Mario Balotelli could manage, having once again failed to make manager Brendan Rodgers matchday squad. Rodgers also decided against risking Reds captain Steven Gerrard, struggling with a tight hamstring.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce included former Liverpool players Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing, both of whom were sold by Rodgers, in his starting line-up. Carroll was back at Anfield for the first time since he moved to the London club in August 2012, having criticised his treatment by Rodgers in the build up to this match, saying the Northern Irishman had "messed with his head".
The powerful forward certainly seemed fired up and was fortunate to escape a booking early on when he caught Emre Can with an elbow which left the Liverpool defender needing treatment.
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As has often been the case this season, Sterling was at the heart of Liverpool's attacking play. He stole the ball off Carroll and, with the Hammers defence on their heels, laid the ball off to Jordan Henderson, who struck his effort from the edge of the area straight at goalkeeper Adrian.
Philippe Coutinho was the next to test Adrian when his low effort was blocked by his Brazilian compatriot at the near post. It is a sign of how West Ham have improved this season that they did not simply come to Anfield and pack men behind the ball, and Carroll went close with a header from a free-kick shortly after the half-hour mark.
Liverpool felt they should have had a penalty on the stroke of half-time when Joey O'Brien grappled with Sterling inside the box, and seconds later Lazar Markovic was presented with the chance of the half. The Serbian winger seized on Downing's sloppy pass and with just Adrian to beat, fired past the post. However, six minutes after the break Sterling got the goal his display deserved as he finished off a slick Liverpool move.
Alberto Moreno picked out Sterling on the edge of the box from the left flank and, with his back to goal chested the ball to Coutinho, spun Winston Reid, and when he received the return pass fired a low shot past Adrian. Sturridge, having been greeted with a huge cheer from the Anfield faithful when he came on to replace Markovic in the 67th minute, then delighted the home crowd when he received a clever ball from Coutinho and emphatically fired past Adrian at his near post.