Coutinho stars as Klopp’s men run riot

Philippe Coutinho celebrates his brace against West Ham Philippe Coutinho celebrates his brace against West Ham

Liverpool took a huge step towards Champions League qualification as goals from Daniel Sturridge – on his first Premier League start since January – and the magnificent Philippe Coutinho helped them claim a comprehensive 4-0 victory at West Ham.

Sturridge had not started a top-flight match for Jurgen Klopp’s side since featuring in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland on January 2, but displayed the clinical edge Liverpool have at times lacked in front of goal with a superb run and finish midway through the first half at London Stadium.

Prior to Sturridge’s strike, it was the Reds who had gone closest to opening the scoring when Joel Matip’s header struck the woodwork, though the visitors were fortunate that Andre Ayew did not restore parity on the cusp of half-time.

Ayew’s poor finishing was duly punished, Coutinho taking matters into his own hands with two terrific solo efforts in the space of four second-half minutes, although the second one came with a hint of controversy.

Georginio Wijnaldum, who had hit the crossbar in the build-up to Liverpool’s second goal, clearly handled in his own area – inflicting injury on Winston Reid in the process – but referee Neil Swarbrick played on, with Coutinho netting 21 seconds later.

Divock Origi added a fourth late as Liverpool ran riot to seal a win that represents the perfect response to Saturday’s victories for top-four rivals Manchester City and Arsenal, and moves the Reds up to third, while a difficult debut season at London Stadium for West Ham came to a dismal end.

Sam Byram should have put the hosts ahead seven minutes in, but the defender skewed wide at the culmination of a slick counter-attack.

Liverpool wasted no time in responding as Matip got free from Coutinho’s corner, only for the crossbar to come to West Ham’s rescue.

Klopp’s men did have the lead 10 minutes prior to the interval, though.

Coutinho picked up possession in Liverpool’s half and slid a sublime through ball to Sturridge who, after beating the offside trap and rounding Adrian, made no mistake with a neat finish.

West Ham were presented with the ideal opportunity to level matters just prior to the interval, but Ayew somehow managed to hit the post twice from point-blank range.

Wijnaldum thought he had extended Liverpool’s lead before the hour with an audacious volley that rattled off the frame of the goal, but Coutinho made sure, after picking up the loose ball, to capitalise on hapless defending to fire in from the edge of the area.

And the result was put beyond all doubt soon after when officials failed to halt play for what appeared to be a head injury sustained by Reid. Liverpool countered, with Coutinho keeping his composure to thump in his second.

Origi was the next Liverpool player to hit the woodwork, but the Belgian got his goal with 14 minutes remaining, tucking home from close range to add further gloss to a one-sided scoreline.