Never in doubt.
Three changes for the champions today, with Nat Phillips picking up where he left off against Spurs alongside Captain Fantastic at the heart of the defence, and both Big Div and the lesser spotted Shaqiri coming into the attack at the expense of Mané (sidelined with a minor muscle strain) and Firmino, who was on the bench. A rare midfield diamond for the Tricky Reds, with Mo and Div as split strikers ahead of Shaq.
Gini received an early knock in an aerial challenge with Souček; fortunately, he was fine to continue. The first chance fell to Big Div but he blasted high, wide and not-very-handsome. Gini tried his luck from longe range without luck and Thiago had a speculative blast blocked.
As we reached the mid-point of the first half, Mo nodded wide from Thiago’s lifted pass- it wasn’t an easy chance by any means. At the other end, Antonio and Benrahma got in each other’s way and Rice’s long-range punt was charged down.
Mo teed up Shaqiri, whose effort was deflected wide for a corner; one noticeable aspect of the half was how poor our delivery from corners was, from both sides of the pitch. Antonio headed straight at Alisson- against, not really a good chance but it was a rare attempt on target.
Thiago threaded the ball through to Origi but the striker was under pressure from a defender and could only poke wide. Salah tried his luck from long-range… straight at the keeper.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, the visitors had controlled the game but barely tested Fabianski; the home side had barely left their own half. Yet again, the Reds were dominant but hadn’t turned possession into goals.
The second stanza started with Salah having a shot deflected by Cresswell and, seconds later, Origi blasting into the side netting with a shot taken early. Henderson played a beautiful ball from deep which Mo could only head tamely at the home goalie.
Antonio shot wide after a quick - and rare- West Ham break ten minutes into the half; Div had clearly been fouled in the build up but nothing given, as usual. Jones replaced Milner and immediately led an attack which resulted in Mo curling a delightful finish to the far corner with his left foot after cutting in from the right. 1-0 to the good guys.
West Ham had to up their game and did so, with Dawson heading over from a corner and Robertson having to clear a dangerous cross. The resulting West Ham corner saw the Reds launch a counter attack and Shaq crossed first-time for Mo to finish with aplomb. 2-0 with a quarter of the game to play; when even Martin Tyler describes it as a work of art, you know that it’s a stunning goal.
Bobby replaced Shaq soon after the goal; Thiago did brilliantly to intercept when the home side threatened to break and the ball found its way to Salah on the edge of the box but Mo fired well over.
Div was replaced by Ox with eleven minutes left to play- it was, apparently, the former Arsenal man’s 100th career appearance from the substitutes’ bench- and he was involved in some brilliant interplay which saw six players involved in teeing up Gini for a tap-in with six minutes left to play. 3-0 to the champions.
Craig Dawson swept home from Cresswell’s corner with 87 minutes on the clock but it was a second consecutive 3-1 victory down in London this week for the Tricky Reds, both wins coming against teams with hopes of qualifying for Europe this season.
Next up is the visit of Brighton on Wednesday night. With our long unbeaten home run having come to an end against Burnley last time out, we would be wise not to take our relatively lowly rivals lightly, especially as we only drew down at their place… although, to be fair, we were blatantly robbed in that game.
MOTM: Nat Phillips. Regular readers will know I usually have some food and drink person in this spot but today I feel our centre half deserves it. He has looked impeccable in his handful of appearances this season and didn’t put a foot wrong today… until the corner from which West Ham scored, but we’ll let him off that. Fully deserves a run in the starting XI in my humble opinion.