London: Struggling West Ham United returned to losing ways on Sunday when they were thrashed 0-3 at home by Liverpool in the English Premier League.
Early goals by Czech striker Milan Baros, who started in place of a rested Michael Owen, and midfielder Steven Gerrard put Liverpool 2-0 up after only nine minutes at Upton Park. Emile Heskey headed their third midway through the second half.
All three goals came from corners by Liverpool’s Norwegian wing back John Arne Riise and provided clear evidence of West Ham’s defensive frailty.
Their seventh home league defeat of the season left them still second-bottom in the Premier League on 20 points, one point above Sunderland.
Liverpool stay sixth with 42 points, 14 points adrift of leaders Arsenal. Manchester United are second with 50 points but still have a game in hand.
In Sunday’s other game Aston Villa cruised to an easy 3-0 home victory over Blackburn Rovers, leapfrogging them into 11th place in the table on 35 points.
West Ham manager Glenn Roeder was fuming after a display reminiscent of the 0-6 FA Cup humiliation last weekend by Manchester United and was especially angered by his team’s poor marking.
“They are cheap goals,” Roeder told reporters. “People have got certain responsibilities in the team at set plays and they have not been carried out today.”
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier sprang a surprise by leaving England striker Owen on the bench but Baros justified the decision after only seven minutes, heading Riise’s corner powerfully past West Ham goalkeeper David James.
Within two minutes another Riise corner fell to Gerrard on the edge of the area and the England international’s 20-metre drive screamed into the back of the West Ham net.
It was the perfect way for Gerrard to sign off before Monday’s disciplinary hearing where he is expected to be banned for a challenge on Everton’s Gary Naysmith in December.
Heskey converted a Sami Hyypia nod-back after 67 minutes to make it 3-0 with James flapping to complete a comprehensive victory.
Liverpool have now drawn two and won two of their last four league games, a notable improvement that has pleased Houllier, even though he accepts their title challenge is over.
“Since the top players are back on form the team is back in business,” Houllier said, adding that he had left Owen out to give him a rest. “Michael has been playing a lot of games since his (hamstring) injury. It was the right time to give him a bit of a break. You should trust your squad.”
Houllier also had words of sympathy for Roeder, saying: “I really sympathise with Glenn because he came up against a very strong Liverpool side today.”