London (AFP) – Mohamed Salah’s brace left West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic in grave danger of the sack as Liverpool thrashed the Premier League strugglers 4-1 on Saturday.
Salah put Liverpool ahead at the London Stadium and Joel Matip doubled the visitors’ lead before half-time to leave Bilic facing a toxic atmosphere.
Manuel Lanzini reduced the deficit, but woeful West Ham capitulated and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got Liverpool’s third before Salah bagged his 12th goal of the season to seal the rout.
Bilic and his players were jeered by furious West Ham fans and it would be little surprise if the Croatian was dismissed during the forthcoming international break.
Even Bilic admitted his job was in jeopardy following last weekend’s draw against lowly Crystal Palace and his situation is even bleaker now.
West Ham are just one point and one place above the relegation zone after their winless league run extended to four matches.
In contrast to Bilic’s woes, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has silenced his critics for the moment thanks to the Reds’ third successive win in all competitions.
Assailed by questions about his tactics and signings following last month’s thrashing at Tottenham Hotspur, Klopp has steered sixth-placed Liverpool to successive league wins for the first time since August.
Klopp had received a pre-match boost when Senegal winger Sadio Mane was declared fit after returning ahead of schedule from a hamstring injury.
But the German still needed a dash of good fortune to avoid a nightmare start in east London.
Lanzini’s deflected pass gave Andre Ayew an early sight of goal, but although the West Ham striker flicked his shot past Simon Mignolet, his luck was out as it cannoned back off the post.
Liverpool made the most of their escape and opened the scoring with a lethal counter-attack in the 21st minute.
When a West Ham corner was cleared to the edge of the Liverpool area, Mane showed he’d shaken off any rust from his injury lay-off as he surged away with a burst of pace.
Suddenly, Bilic’s side were out-numbered at the back and Mane carried the ball into the Hammers area before slipping a pass to the unmarked Salah, who coolly slotted past Joe Hart for his fifth goal in his last four appearances.
– Shell-shocked –
If Liverpool’s opener was crafted with expert execution, their second three minutes later was a more fortuitous effort.
When Salah sent over a low corner, West Ham captain Mark Noble inadvertently deflected it towards his own goal, forcing Hart to palm the ball out to Matip and the Cameroon defender gleefully stroked home from close-range.
With West Ham looking completely lost, their fans rained down a torrent of abuse when Lanzini fired wildly over and it was no surprise to hear boos ring out loudly at half-time.
Bilic sent on former Liverpool forward Andy Carroll after the interval and the switch briefly energised the hosts, who got one back in the 55th minute.
When Ayew’s cross looped into the Liverpool area, Joe Gomez misjudged the ball’s flight, allowing Lanzini to deftly control before firing past Mignolet.
But just 55 seconds later, Liverpool were back in control.
Woeful West Ham defending left Oxlade-Chamberlain unmarked and, after his initial shot was saved, the England midfielder kept his composure to steer past Hart for his first league goal since his August move from Arsenal.
When Lanzini blazed over from close range, West Ham fans began flooding to the exits.
And Salah piled on the misery in the 76th minute, controlling a Mane pass and lashing home to leave Bilic on the brink.
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