West Ham broke Liverpool’s hearts in the dying embers of extra time of the fourth replay of the FA Cup to lift the Hammers to the 2-1 win. A strike by Michail Antonio in the 120th minute plus thirty seconds of extra time is a shocking reminder how cruel and unforgiving futebol can be. The Reds were sent home heartbroken while the Hammers advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
The Guardians James Riach wrote- Of all the ways to win a Cup game, this was cruel and joyous in equal measure. This had almost been the last such tie at this old ground, but Angelo Ogbonna rose after 121 long minutes to head West Ham into the fifth round – they will play at Blackburn – and break the young hearts of Liverpool.
In a week where the cost of football has been in acute focus, it is fair to say that both sets of fans got their money’s worth on a night of dynamic drama. Liverpool will be glad of Daniel Sturridge’s impressive return, but the profligacy of Christian Benteke late on ensured an exit for a fledgling side that had performed admirably in the face of a high-octane display by the Hammers.
Michail Antonio had given Slaven Bilic’s side the lead just before half-time, but Philippe Coutinho’s free-kick crept under the wall to equalise three minutes into the second half. From thereon in, the game ebbed and flowed with chances for both, until Ogbonna rose in the dying moments to head Dimitri Payet’s cross over Simon Mignolet.
Both sides made significant changes from their previous league matches. Mignolet was the only player who remained in Liverpool’s starting lineup from the 2-2 draw against Sunderland, while West Ham made five alterations from the team that lost narrowly at Southampton.
Klopp’s was a youthful selection and, most notably, Lucas Leiva started in central defence alongside Tiago Ilori. Coutinho was involved throughout a first half during which posts were hit and goalkeepers tested.
West Ham have undoubtedly had the edge on Liverpool this season – scoring five against them over two league games without reply – and it was Bilic’s side who went in at half-time with the lead. Both teams demonstrated a refreshing attacking intent. In the 15th minute Darren Randolph was forced into the first save of the game, getting his body in the way of Christian Benteke’s effort from a Coutinho corner. A minute later and West Ham almost took the lead through an unlikely source. Joey O’Brien, the right-back returning to the team for the first time since playing in the Europa League last July, found space on the edge of the penalty area and was picked out beautifully by Dimitri Payet, but his low shot cannoned back off Mignolet’s near post.
Payet has been the star of Upton Park this season, and negotiations on an improved contract have begun for the midfielder signed from Marseille in the summer.
He was a constant threat to a Liverpool defence containing Jon Flanagan and Brad Smith as full-backs, but the white shirts had plenty of attacking gusto themselves. It was Smith, in fact, who proved effective on the overlap on two occasions. The second, after 29 minutes, resulted in a deflected ball across goal from the byline which fell to the young midfielder João Teixeira, whose shot flew narrowly wide.
Coutinho then came even closer for Liverpool, hitting the post after Benteke showed quick feet to beat his marker and find his team-mate in the 34th minute. The woodwork was rattled at the other end soon after, Payet’s curled free-kick from the edge of the D beating Mignolet but not his left-hand post, and the goalkeeper produced a smart save to keep out Michail Antonio from the rebound.
Antonio, though, was not going to be denied for long. With one minute until half-time, Enner Valencia retrieved the ball just outside the area on the left. The Ecuadorian demonstrated perseverance to beat a cluster of white shirts before drifting a precise ball to the far post, where Antonio volleyed in emphatically.
Unfortunately for West Ham, the lead had gone three minutes into the second half. Benteke was caught in a bundle of claret and blue on the edge of the area and, despite the protestations from the home crowd, referee Roger East awarded a free-kick. Up stepped Coutinho. It seemed too close to goal to get a shot up and over but the Brazilian did not need to. Instead, he hit a grass-cutter under the wall and past Randolph.
Liverpool were rejuvenated. Smith was causing more problems in an advanced position and soon Sturridge was on. The striker, notable more for his absence than presence in recent times, replaced Coutinho with half an hour remaining, while Divock Origi came on for Teixeira. Instantly, Sturridge almost had an opportunity, but Benteke could not get a pass away quickly enough during a counterattack and Sturridge strayed offside.
The intensity began to increase. Valencia went down in the opposition penalty area and appeared to be dragged back by Ilori, but despite the appeals inside the stadium and Bilic’s gesticulations, the referee ignored the penalty claims.
Winston Reid was forced off through injury before Andy Carroll – who scored against his former club in the league last month – came on for Cheikhou Kouyaté.
In the closing stages Sturridge nutmegged O’Brien to win a free-kick, which Randolph saved from Benteke, while Valencia headed over for West Ham. It was Jordan Ibe, though, who came closest to scoring a winner, his left-footed shot from the edge of the area palmed away by Randolph.
Mark Noble, the West Ham captain, forced a fine low save from Mignolet in extra time, but it wasBenteke who had two golden chances to seal it for Liverpool. The first, in the 99th minute, was a volley that the Belgian dragged wide. Seconds later he was played through, only to see his shot blocked well by the onrushing Randolph but it was to be Ogbonna who had the final word.