Our head to head record against Liverpool is an appalling one. In 135 competitive games in the league, cups, and charity shield, we have won just 28, drawn 36, and lost 71. I guess that this is not too surprising given Liverpool’s record as one of the top teams in the country over a long period of time.
Our final season at the Boleyn (2015-16) was as good as it gets against them with three victories and a draw in the four games. We won comfortably (3-0) at Anfield at the end of August, after which the manager (Brendan Rodgers) lost his job to be replaced by Jurgen Klopp. We also won the return league fixture at Upton Park, as well as drawing at Anfield in the FA Cup, then beating them after extra-time in the replay.
In 2014-15 there was an amazing start to the game at Upton Park. First, Reid scored from close range after a couple of minutes, and then Sakho floated in the second with Valencia following it in to make sure. Just a few minutes gone and we were 2-0 up. On the half hour Sterling lashed in a fierce shot in front of the Bobby Moore end to reduce our lead. However we held the advantage throughout the second half, and just a couple of minutes from the end a pass from Downing enabled Amaltifano to make the game safe with a clinical finish.
In the ill-fated relegation season under Avram Grant (2010-11) an inspired performance from Scott Parker (not his only inspired performance in a claret and blue shirt) was the catalyst for another victory. Parker himself opened the scoring with a fine shot, and then Demba Ba headed home Gary O’Neill’s cross. Yet another old boy then scored against us when Glenn Johnson pulled one back in the last ten minutes. But Carlton Cole wrapped up the three points with a scorching left footed strike in front of the fans in the Bobby Moore stand to seal a 3-1 victory. This was our nineteenth meeting against Liverpool in the twenty-first century, but was only our second win!
We all know the statistic about how long we went without winning at Anfield (1963-2015). But in that cup winning season of 1963-64, not only did we win at Anfield in September 1963 (with the Beatles at the top of the charts with “She Loves You”), but we also won the home game, with a Johnny Byrne goal giving us a 1-0 win. At around the time of that Anfield victory, another Merseyside group, Gerry & the Pacemakers, recorded their single “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. It became number one in November and, of course, went on to become a Liverpool anthem.
When we met Liverpool in a League Cup fourth round tie in November 1988, few gave us much chance as we had failed to beat them at home or away for over six years. But a spectacular volley half way through the first half followed by a Devonshire corner headed home meant that we led 2-0 with both goals being scored by everyone’s favourite, Paul Ince. We don’t easily hold on to 2-0 leads against Liverpool and this game was no exception when they were awarded a controversial penalty which was converted by Aldridge. So 2-1 at half-time and the next goal would be important. But the story has a happy ending with a Staunton own goal followed by a stunning Tony Gale free kick giving us a famous 4-1 victory. That season ended on a low note with a 5-1 defeat at Anfield which relegated us to Division 2 and set Liverpool up for a title decider against Arsenal with a distinct advantage. But they lost out to virtually the last kick of the league season when a Michael Thomas goal gave the Gunners a decisive 2-0 victory and the title on the virtue of goals scored in the season with points and goal difference being equal.
The highest profile games against Liverpool were played on neutral grounds. In our record breaking season of 1980-81, the only season in almost sixty years of watching West Ham I have seen us finish at the top of a league, albeit it was Division Two, we reached the League Cup Final against them. At the time they were the top team in the country. It looked like we were about to lose the game when Alan Kennedy scored just before the end of extra time (it was 0-0 after 90 minutes), but in the final minute we were awarded a penalty, and Ray Stewart was the coolest person in Wembley Stadium when he stepped up and slotted home the well-deserved equaliser.
The galling thing about the Liverpool goal was that Sammy Lee was crouching on the ground immediately in front of Phil Parkes, our goalkeeper, in an offside position and the linesman raised his flag to signal offside. He was over-ruled by the infamous referee Clive Thomas (who was not averse to controversial decisions) who deemed that although Lee was in an offside position he was not interfering with play. Anybody who was there, or who has watched the TV replay of the goal would agree that this was nonsensical, he was most definitely interfering with play as he had to duck his head to avoid being hit by the ball!
The League Cup controversy sparked a major incident when John Lyall told Thomas at the end of the game that we felt cheated, and then Thomas blurted to the press that Lyall had called him a cheat. Lyall faced an FA charge of bringing the game into disrepute, although he was exonerated at the hearing. The replay was held at Villa Park. Despite taking the lead when Jimmy Neighbour’s cross was met at the near post by Paul Goddard, Dalglish equalised with a magnificent volley and then Alan Hansen scored a header via Billy Bonds’ thigh. This time we couldn’t come back and Liverpool lifted the trophy.
In 2006 we visited the Millenium Stadium for the third season in a row, although this time no play-offs were involved, we were contesting the FA Cup Final against Liverpool. This was the sixth and last FA Cup Final to be held in Cardiff during the rebuilding of Wembley Stadium. Liverpool had won the first in 2001 but we were determined that they wouldn’t win the last. The game was considered to be one of the great cup finals. We made an excellent start with a Lionel Scaloni cross being turned into his own goal by Carragher, and then an Etherington shot was fumbled by Reina for Ashton to squirm the ball into the goal. We were in dreamland. Our 2-0 lead was shortlived, however, when Scaloni misjudged a long ball from Gerrard which Cissé volleyed home to cut the deficit in half. Ten minutes into the second half Gerrard volleyed home a headed knockdown by Peter Crouch to level the game at 2-2.
Incredibly we went ahead again 25 minutes from the end when Paul Konchesky’s long floated cross-cum shot sailed over the head of Reina to put us 3-2 ahead. With the game in injury time Liverpool were out on their feet and it looked as though the cup was ours. Scaloni could have put the ball out high into the stands, or just kept possession, but chose to hand it to our opponents and seconds later it fell to Gerrard who hit a stinging low shot from around 30 yards into the bottom corner of the net to take the game into extra time. I thought back to this moment when Antonio did something similar in the last seconds of injury time against Palace last weekend! Liverpool had the momentum in extra time but extraordinary misses by Reo-Coker and Harewood meant that it would take a penalty shoot out to decide the victors. It was perhaps one of the most one sided penalty shoot outs of all time in a major final. Zamora, Konchesky and Ferdinand all contrived to miss with substitute Sheringham scoring our only penalty as we lost 3-1. The cup was ours and then we lost it. Twenty-six years after our previous FA cup victory we should have lifted the trophy again, but it was not to be.