Thursday, 31 January 2008

Reflections On Liverpool

Alan Curbishley could not hide his elation after West Ham United once again showed their tremendous form with a superb 1-0 triumph against Liverpool. It was the first time in 12 meetings that the club had got the better of the Reds, and the manager had plenty of words of praise for the way his team - from Robert Green at the back to Carlton Cole in attack - stuck to the task before deservedly taking the points with a late Mark Noble penalty.

"It was a fantastic result for us," he said. "We have had to keep it tight, work ever so hard. Everybody played their part, Greeny made the saves when he needed to and the back four once again have stood really firm. We've got a terrific defensive record and we needed it. I am delighted for the players. It was mentioned yesterday that West Ham have had a turbulent record against Liverpool. I wasn't fully aware of it. As they have shown all season, they gave everything. We are chopping and changing a lot of the time but they have given everything. It is nice when you get the result in the last minute and we will take it."

Talking about the penalty that won it, Curbishley said he left it up to the players to decide who was going to take the responsibility. "Reina's good on penalties and I saw Dean Ashton walking towards it as well. Mark took the one at the Birmingham, while Deano was the penalty taker last year but Mark took it and put it on the spot. He was confident I think but you have to ask him how confident." Already thinking about Saturday's trip to Wigan Athletic, he added: "We have got to keep the run going. We have had to use everything we have got. We have had players playing out of position, we have had to change things during the game and perhaps put people in unfamiliar places. They have shown great character. I think West Ham fans should be looking at them and saying what they are producing is fantastic - a great attitude."

Mark Noble revealed he was determined to take the last-gasp spot-kick that gave West Ham United a valuable 1-0 victory against Liverpool. "We have only had two this year. I scored the first one, so my record was 100 per cent," he said. "No one was going to go against me. I was taking it no matter what. As soon as I picked up the ball I thought Reina's got a reputation...but I was so confident that I was going to score, I didn't feel that nervous." Curbishley was full of praise for Noble's all-round contribution. "For a young boy he has shown great maturity," the manager said. "He really looked as if he was enjoying himself tonight. I left him out a couple of times just before Christmas and he was playing with an injury. He had this hernia problem, and he never told anyone. In the end he had to have it done. The rest he had has done him good."

Freddie Ljungberg was understandably enthused by the lead-up to the penalty. "Matty played the ball but it was a bit behind me so I waited until he came up because we were the only two players up there," explained the Swede. "He checked back and then chipped the ball to me. I took it on the chest and was thinking maybe I should volley it but I decided to chip the ball up and he took my standing foot. I was trying to get him to throw himself at me so I could take the ball around him and go for goal but instead he tripped me." For Ljungberg and West Ham, now four points behind Liverpool and with just one defeat in their last seven league games, the only way appears to be up. "We've looked at the league table and we believe we can move on up, it's so tight," said Ljungberg. "I think we're getting there. Personally, I've felt really good for the past month and we're starting to play the ball on the floor a bit more which suits me. I said from the beginning that Europe is a realistic aim. That's why I joined the club, to build something. We've had a lot of injuries but we're still up there. We're so close now and playing really well."

"It was nice to have another clean sheet," added Matthew Upson. "It starts from the front, the strikers and all the way through. As a back-four unit we were solid, limited them to very few chances and we are very pleased. I had every faith in Mark. He is a good penalty taker, he has got a lot of bottle - a cool head on young shoulders. He stepped up and really put it away nicely. It was a great atmosphere, as evening games here are. To win against a big team like Liverpool puts us in a nice position in the table. It all looks very positive." The seven-times capped defender is in a unique club of just two outfield Premier League players who have played every minute for their clubs this season. He will find out at 3.30pm today whether he has earned a recall to the England fold when new manager Fabio Capello names a preliminary squad for next Wednesday's home friendly against Switzerland. "I am very focused on achieving an England place," the 28-year-old ever-present said. "That is something that I am desperate to do. All I can keep doing is playing well. I am looking to improve all the time and I am really enjoying being at West Ham. We are playing some good football here. I will keep working at it and see how far it takes me."

Finally, Alan Curbishley has told the fans they "need to get behind the players" after Luis Boa Morte was roundly vilified for missing a golden opportunity to put West Ham ahead when the score was still 0-0. "It's happened a couple of times," lamented Curbishley. "They need to get behind the players. Luis has been out a month and came back at Manchester City and put everything in." Curbishley felt that Boa Morte gave his all against Liverpool, too, as he continues his return from hamstring trouble. And he explained why he had to take Carlton Cole off late in the game. "It wasn't popular because people think that it is a forward coming off, but Steven Gerrard was running riot and I had to do something about it. I put Jon [Spector] on there to try and stop that and he did. Sometimes you have to do things in games that perhaps people don't see but we have to do it."

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