Liverpool enjoyed a leisurely 3-0 stroll past a lifeless West Ham United at Anfield on Monday, ideal preparation before their marathon journey to Spain for this week’s Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid.
First-half goals by Yossi Benayoun and David Ngog gave the home side the initiative before an own goal on the hour from Hammers keeper Robert Green helped lift Liverpool into sixth place in the Premier League on 59 points.
They trail fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who have a game in hand, by five points.
Realistically though Liverpool’s only hope of adding some cheer to a torrid season after early exits in the Champions League and FA Cup lie in Thursday's semifinal, first-leg match in Madrid.
The ash spewed from a volcano in Iceland has closed down airspace in Europe for much of the last week and Liverpool must make their way to Madrid by more time-consuming means.
West Ham barely registered a shot and allowed Liverpool, particularly captain Steven Gerrard, to dictate the game at their leisure.
Gerrard created Liverpool’s opener when his cross was guided goalwards by Benayoun on 19 minutes, the Israeli deflecting thw ball home with his chest.
Ngog’s neat finish from Maxi Rodriguez’s centre ten minutes later might have been saved by Green, whose hesitancy from another Gerrard centre just before the hour mark allowed defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos to poke goalwards only for the ball to hit the far post and cannon in of Green’s leg.
West Ham lacked the intensity of a side haunted by the shadow of relegation, and with just three matches remaining they must improve.
“I think everyone’s got a soft spot for West Ham. Hopefully they can stay up,” Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said after the match, his views echoed by former Hammer Benayoun. “I didn’t celebrate because I still have feelings for this club and I really hope they will stay up,” he said.
West Ham are three points above relegation zone in 17th and will be nervous observers on Wednesday when Hull welcome Aston Villa hoping to take advantage of their game in hand and draw level on points.