The door is starting to creak open for Manchester City. Liverpool, with the weight of history threatening to pin them down, found their title charge losing further momentum on an evening of suffocating tension. Even the gift of an offside goal was not enough to extinguish the nerves choking the Premier League’s pacesetters, heightening the impression that Jurgen Klopp’s red machine is finally showing signs of wear and tear.
This was the second successive game Liverpool were gripped by stage fright, with their anxiety captured by the moment when Divock Origi fluffed a glorious opportunity to steal the points with the final kick of a fraught contest. Time stood still when Naby Keïta’s lofted pass fooled West Ham’s stubborn back four and the stage seemed set for Origi, on as a late substitute, to repeat the stoppage-time heroics that won the Merseyside derby two months ago.
The striker’s weak effort went straight at Lukasz Fabianski and means Liverpool’s lead over City stands at three points, presenting the champions with an opportunity to go top when they visit Everton on Wednesday night.
City can smell blood in the water. Once again Liverpool failed to master mid-table opposition, following up last week’s home draw against Leicester with another laboured display, and they were fortunate to leave east London with a point.
West Ham, bright and inventive in possession, were entitled to feel that they deserved to win. It spoke volumes that Manuel Pellegrini expressed disappointment at the draw.
West Ham defended with impressive organisation, made the clearer chances and were aggrieved with the officials for failing to spot that James Milner was at least a yard offside during the move that culminated in Sadio Mané putting Liverpool in front midway through the first half.