Liverpool hung on to beat West Ham 2-1 thanks to two Steven Gerrard penalties, with some very questionable decisions made by referee Anthony Taylor.
Some rather 'Rubenesque' Liverpool fans have chosen to remove their shirts in celebration, which there's frankly no need for, but you can understand their excitement. It's still in their hands, and they might just bloody well win the league. Colossal game next Sunday against Manchester City.
Cheers for joining in with this parade of handballs and iffy decisions. I'm out.
And that's that. Liverpool go back top of the league.
90 mins + 3: Armero crosses from the left, and it thwacks into Henderson's arm, but whadderyaknow, the referee shakes his head.
90 mins + 2: Sterling cuts in from the left, eschewing the chance to take it into the corner, but his shot is clawed wide by Adrian. Suarez then moves slower than a glacier to take the corner.
90 mins: Four minutes of added time to be played. Going to be four minutes of mixer-play, I reckon.
89 mins: "Yes, Tim Smyth. It's me. And I'm still here" - HP Tinker.
Downing sprays a shot from the edge of the box just over the bar.
88 mins: Nocerino chips a cross into the box which Toure flicks on, and almost - almost - over Mignolet, but the keeper saves his defender a shoo-in for a bloopers tape.
87 mins: Sterling stabs a ball through the middle for Suarez, the pass is just held up by a deflection off a West Ham defender, put Suarez's toe-poked shot is saved by Adrian.
86 mins: Suarez breaks through, but is dragged back by Armero, and the referee gives a free kick and a yellow card after initially trying to play advantage.
85 mins: Changes on either side - Carlton Cole comes on for Diame, and Kolo Toure replaces Sturridge. 4-4-2 v 5-3-2 now.
84 mins: Suarez tries something ridiculous that nearly comes off again, chipping the ball from the edge of the area with the outside of his right foot, and it pings off the bar.
82 mins: Jarvis wins a free kick in the right corner, takes it himself and finds Demel at the near post, but he not only misses the target with a header, but gets a boot to the bonce as well. Ouchies.
81 mins: A long ball over the top drops for Sturridge, in an ideal place for a cross the keeper half-volley, but he hits it straight at the keeper.
80 mins: "Is that HP Tinker the brilliant short story writer?" asks Tim Smyth. "Where have you been?!"
79 mins: Liverpool manage to waste nearly a minute by dithering over taking a throw. That's almost impressive.
78 mins: Sub for West Ham now - Matt Jarvis is on for Matt Taylor.
76 mins: HP Tinker has some tactical advice for Liverpool:
"Liverpool are finding it too hard to pass their way through West Ham's mass defence. They need to go old school - play it long, get a corner and punch the keeper in the face..."
74 mins: Suarez now wants another penalty as the ball hits Armero's heel and flicks up to his hand, but that was unintentional and even Anthony Taylor doesn't give that one.
73 mins: Anyway, away from this 'football' guff, several people have confirmed that the music video Hugo was after is 'Avant Gardener' by Courtney Barnett.
72 mins: Flanagan didn't even appeal for that penalty. Crivens.
Gerrard goes the other way, and it's West Ham's turn to be wronged.
69 mins: Penalty! The phrase 'evening things up' springs to mind, as Adrian gets the ball at Flanagan's feet, but the Liverpool man goes down and the ref points to the spot.
68 mins: Nocerino is on for Nolan. Much, much more handsome.
67 mins: Here's Ben Culling on speed. Actually, that sounds bad - here's Ben Culling, on speed:
"The game at the top level is getting too fast for one person to be able take everything in. UEFA know this so they have added the extra officials, but the only way to make better decisions is via replay for the big ones and retrospective punishments.
"It's not just poor Ashley who is suffering!"
66 mins: Looks like the game is about to get a lot more handsome - Antonio Nocerino is coming on.
65 mins: Another decent chance for Sturridge, another smacked shot over the bar. He had options to his right there, too.
63 mins: Hugo Carreira needs help:
"A while ago, in one of these minute-by-minute things, the writer embedded a music video by a young woman – in her twenties –, singing while playing tennis. I remember another moment, either from the same song or another video, of her riding a bike with a bunch of other people. Was it you who posted it? Can you tell me her name? All I get Googling it is Lorde or actual tennis. Thank you."
62 mins: Eeesh, Carroll goes close. Diame crosses from the right, and Carroll pulls away so he's challenging Johnson for the header at the back post. Predictably enough the massive Geordie wins that one, and smashes the header into the bar.
60 mins: Liverpool's passing hasn't been as fluent in this game, and that's largely because West Ham haven't allowed it to be. The visitors have more of the ball at present, though.
58 mins: More philosophy, this time via Len:
"It was also Douglas Adams in Restaurant at the End of the Universe, who put forward the idea that anyone who wants to be Galactic President should not be allowed to stand. Hence the actual ruler is a hermit who talks to his cat."
57 mins: Inevitable howling whenever West Ham are penalised now, as they clearly think they can get away with any rough-housing. However, in this case, as Henderson goes down after kicking Carroll's admittedly high boot, they probably have a point.
56 mins: Michael Britten wonders:
"Maybe it's just a case of confirmation bias, maybe it's the constant replays of every single mistake but is it just me or has the standard of refereeing across the board been really, really poor this year? I thought it was bad from only the first few weeks but it seems to have gotten even worse of late, if that's even possible."
55 mins: Adrian has to move very smartly to get off his line and intercept the ball as Suarez races though. Tight stuff so far in the second half.
53 mins: More wrasslin' from Reid prevents Sterling from making more progress down the right. Could be a theme, that.
51 mins: Sterling darts into the box, but Tomkins sticks a leg out that could either have taken the Liverpool man down, or taken the ball away from him. Luckily for Tomkins, the latter occurs.
48 mins: Jeff Stranks writes:
"Very Chomskyan comment from Ollie Irish there – Chomsky once saying something along the lines of ‘never trust anyone who actually puts themselves forward for public office’ However it’s hard to see how you’d ever have referees if you didn’t draw on those who volunteer to do it."
47 mins: West Ham win a corner, and in an attempt to shackle Carroll, two Liverpool defenders try wrestling him, and are pretty lucky not to give away a penalty.
46 mins: The game is underway once more.
The teams are out for the second half, and Liverpool have made a change - Lucas replaces his countryman Coutinho.
Ben Bamford has a theory:
"Is it possible that Diame's unruly limbs (mins 24 and 27) are actually a manifestation of St Vitus dance? - according to Wikipedia This affliction, whereby sufferers move around in a convulsive and ungainly dance, can be triggered by seeing the colour red....."
Eeesh, that replay isn't getting better for the ref. Dreadful decision, especially as the linesman clearly spotted the foul.
Hammers fan Ralph Sinclair is giddy:
"And they say Allardyce's teams can't play... Bobby Moore, Ron Greenwood and Paolo Di Canio definitely definitely nodding with approval at Andy Carroll there in some sort of Ewok Village celebration scene with Mignolet probably the guy being set alight in the middle as per the rules of association football."
And the whistle goes, with several Liverpool players having a quick word with the official on the way off. Even Brendan asked exactly what the merry hell was going on there. Surprisingly restrained, they were.
47 mins + 2: Well, Liverpool aren't happy about that, and rightly so. Carroll went up for the cross with Mignolet and seemed to slap the Liverpool keeper on the side of the head, which put him off rather, but after a fairly long discussion with the lino, referee Anthony Taylor gives the goal. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
And it's given.
Demel pokes the ball in, the referee gives the goal put the linesman puts his flag up.
44 mins: As Tomkins shakes his head like a man at the bottom of a pit of despairs, Gerrard wins a game of chicken against Adrian and slots the ball to the keeper's left.
43 mins: Brilliant long pass from Gerrard to Suarez in the box, the ball pops up and Tomkins shovels the ball away with his hand. Definite penalty.
42 mins: Diame, in the modern parlance, absolutely pulls down Flanagan's pants with a wonderful flick and roll around and past the Liverpool full back, but his cross can't quite find Carroll in the middle.
39 mins: Another cross comes into the Liverpool box with three West Ham attackers advancing on him and Nolan trying basically to knock him out of the way, not looking at the ball, but the keeper does well to punch it clear.
38 mins: Clearest effort for Sturridge so far - Suarez plays into the middle and it breaks off a West Ham defender into Sturridge's path, on the corner of the six yard box, but he batters the ball over the bar.
35 mins: The ball is tossed high into the Liverpool area, and Mignolet dithers a bit then sort of waves at the cross, with the big tree Carroll lurking and jumping, but the ball breaks away from goal, luckily for the Belgian stopper.
34 mins: "It's horrible how quickly you can start taking things for granted," says Matt Dony. "A few months ago, I was veritably giddy over Liverpool's attacking play and got more excited with every win. (Does anyone even say 'giddy'? Can I get away with it? Anyway...) Now, suddenly, I'm genuinely worried that they're not at least two goals up after half an hour. It's not good enough!"
33 mins: ...and curls the shot just wide of Mignolet's right post. The Belgian keeper was taken slightly by surprise there, but nonetheless could watch it go just wide.
32 mins: A tangle of Sahko/Carroll limbs leaves the West Ham man on the floor, and here's a free kick about two yards outside the D just to the right. Noble steps up...
31 mins: Beautiful play from Liverpool on the edge of the area, as some one-flick passing between Henderson and Sturridge creates some space for a shot from the striker, but he fires the effort quite a way over the bar.
29 mins: Jacob Steinberg with a report from the front line now:
28 mins : Suarez finds some space on the left side of the penalty area, cuts in and belts a shot towards goal, but it strikes Tomkins full in the forehead, and he falls to the ground like Del Boy falling through the bar.
27 mins: Diame, he of the unruly limbs, once again cuts in from the right, and once again his effort (a chipped ball across the edge of the area) is wayward. He's entertaining to watch, if nothing else.
24 mins: Diame, who sometimes controls his limbs a little like a reckless and inexperienced driver in a Bugati Veyron on one of those experience track day things, cuts in from the right and tries a left-footed shot, but it flies pretty high and pretty damn wide.
22 mins: "I'm afraid that Twitter's Simon Franks is talking nonsense," writes Dr. Alimantado. "I don't want Liverpool to win the title and I'm only 39. All the best with the MBM."
Are you a real Doctor?
21 mins: Downing hoys a cross into the box which Flanagan heads behind for a corner. Liverpool then counter at Road Runner pace, but Sterling's shot is straight at Adrian, who parries the thing in a slightly unconvincing manner.
20 mins: Suarez hits the bar! He collects a throw from the left, drifts inside and chip/curls an extraordinary effort from an implausible angle that strikes the meeting of bar and post. Remarkable shot.
17 mins: Bit better than in previous games this, from West Ham. Armero makes some progress down the left, which is promising for those Hammers fans that don't want to be bored to death. He then lets a simple pass dribble under his foot out on the left flank. The lord Samuel giveth...
15 mins: Martin Tyler defers to Gary Neville in commentary, sensing his sidekick was about to impart some of the old insight. "It's not really that important," admits the Neviller. Fair enough.
13 mins: Love and marriage, like a horse and carriage, go together like Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll. The former latches onto a flick-on from the latter, but the Liverpool defence does a solid enough job of crowding out the West Ham man and the attack comes to nought.
12 mins: Thus far West Ham are doing a pretty decent job of closing down Liverpool's rapid counter attacks. Which is sort of the least you expect from an Allardyce side, but still - relatively positive signs for the Hammers in the early stages.
11 mins: "If Carroll (or Downing, for that matter) scores today," muses Rob Marriott, "Can we assume that he'll refuse to celebrate out of respect for the club at which he was a much derided failure, and who got rid of him at the earliest available opportunity?"
9 mins: Nolan is penalised for knocking Coutinho to the ground like he's a poorly-planted sapling. Of course, he protests in the strongest possible terms.
8 mins: Jostling! There's jostling in the West Ham penalty area! Obviously we can't have that, and the referee gives everyone involved a very stern ticking off indeed.
6 mins: A sweeping Liverpool counter usually means it's time for a change of shorts in the opposition defence, but West Ham actually deal with that one, involving Sturridge and Coutinho, quite well.
5 mins: Diame bullies Flanagan off the ball on the West Ham right and manages to get a cross over, but Skrtel just gets to the cross before Andy Carroll. West Ham then take a short corner, but it comes to nowt.
3 mins: Mark Noble is penalised for whipping Daniel Sturridge's legs away within Suarez Range. The Uruguayan defence-baffler steps up and spanks the free kick over the wall, but it gently flicks the top of the net and goes harmlessly over.
1 min: And they're off, with the bubbles still gently floating across the pitch, on their way to fading and dying.
"Regardless of circumstance, I'm quite chuffed that Sakho finds himself in the team today," writes Dan Taylor (not the Guardian's Dan Taylor though). "I think he is better equipped to (man) handle Andy Carroll. Skrtel's not one to shy away from a bit of wrestling either."
The teams are in the tunnel. Kevin Nolan is talking to one of the West Ham mascots. Wonder if he's trying to sign him up to Mark Curtis's books.
Jamie Redknapp is wearing a tie of a colour that could best be described as 'baby food green', and a three-piece suit hewn from quite an itchy-looking fabric. He cannot possibly be comfortable in those duds.
Here's Sam Allardyce. He's rubbing his eye and has a big 'Kick It Out' badge on his lapel. He wants to 'accumulate as many points as we possibly can'. Cool.
Daniel Agger did an ouchie to his knee in training that prevents him from starting today. Mamadou Sahko comes in for his first start since December 29.
Excited as Rodgers is to be in sight of the end of the season and a possible first title for Liverpool in almost a quarter of a century, he is keen to emphasise that his main aim is consistency over a period of time. A title would mean everything, particularly to a player such as Steven Gerrard, who had practically given up hope of getting this close before retirement, but Rodgers would be disappointed were his side to prove unable to match this season's standards in the years to come.
And here's Paul Wilson on how Brendan Rodgers is approaching the rest of the season.
West Ham are unsure whether to stick or twist. The misgivings over the style of football mean that the board is considering whether to sack Allardyce in the summer and hire a more attacking manager. Yet Allardyce has never been relegated and the move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016 makes another drop into the Championship unthinkable. The stakes are so much higher than when Avram Grant took West Ham down in 2011.
There was more of a case to sack Allardyce when West Ham, ravaged by injuries and poor planning in the transfer market, were struggling earlier in the season. Yet they stuck by him and six wins in their past nine matches have moved them away from danger. Monday's gritty 2-1 win at Sunderland edged them closer to safety.
David Gold, the co-owner, has backed Allardyce but behind the scenes there is acknowledgement of the criticism. No fair assessment of Allardyce can conclude that he has done anything other than a fine job at West Ham, winning promotion from the Championship at the first attempt after replacing Grant in 2011 and then finishing 10th last season, while he has made the team resilient. West Ham have kept 13 clean sheets this season and Allardyce's tactics served them well in January's 0-0 draw at Chelsea. Only José Mourinho complained about "19th-century" tactics that night.
More where that came from by Jacob Steinberg, on the situation at West Ham, here.
Not only is there football happening at the Boleyn this afternoon, but a crazy wig out with some of those hippies you've been reading about in the news.
While waiting for this one to start, you can either stick around here for some Grade-A, tip-top, uber-fun preambling, or you can join Ian McCourt for the last rites of Arsenal's season, as they crumble at Goodison Park.
Adrian; Demel, Armero, Reid, Tomkins; Taylor, Noble, Diame, Downing; Nolan; Carroll. Subs: Jaaskelainen, Jarvis, C.Cole, J.Cole, Potts, Johnson, Nocerino.
Mignolet; Johnson, Flanagan, Sahko, Skrtel; Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho; Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge. Subs: Jones, Toure, Cissokho, Lucas, Moses, Aspas, Allen.
THEY'RE GONNA WIN THE LEAGUE! THEY'RE GONNA WIN THE LEAGUE! AND NOW YOU BETTER BELIEVE THEM AND NOW YOU BETTER BELIEVE THEM AND NOW YOU BETTER BELIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEVE THEEEEEEEEEEEEM, THEY'RE GONNA WIN THE LEAGUE!
You can't help thinking that, impressive as Liverpool have been this season, some of their supporters are setting themselves up for a fall, as they chase their first league title since football was invented, such is their glee at their current position. Hubris is sweeping Merseyside like hot cakes (or something), and in some respects you can hardly blame these success-starved Scousers getting a little giddy about the whole thing, especially with the lads down the road in such a frightful mess, but you wonder if some of their more excitable fans should be reining it in a little, before they let hope take over their souls, making the potential crushing disappointment of failure even more crushing and disappointing.
Perhaps they're just enjoying the ride. After years of tomato sandwiches on Tesco value bread followed by a smack in the chops with a slipper, this season they've been chowing down on delightful medium-rare steak with a peppercorn sauce and buttered greens. Mmmm mmmm mmmm. Even though there's time for the waiter to stumble over and spill cold custard all over their dinner, at the moment every forkful melts in the mouth, so why would you keep one eye on the waiter precariously balancing the tureen on one arm while he opens a bottle of wine with the other?
The food on offer at West Ham this term has been less fillet steak, more claggy porridge cooked for too long with not enough milk. Claggy porridge cooked for too long with not enough milk that if you complain about it being a bit claggy and without enough milk, whoever handed you the bowl just cups their hand around their ear, puts it to your stomach and wonders what you've been complaining about as you're no longer hungry. It did the job, you aren't going to starve, so quit your whining and drink your small beaker of luke-warm water.
You have to admire Sam Allardyce's disinclination to give a single solitary stuff about what basically anyone thinks of him, so much so that he felt emboldened enough to do his Hulk Hogan impression when the howls of derision echoed around the Boleyn as they clagged their way to a milk-less win over ten-man Hull the other week. It would of course been far more entertaining, and probably not that out of character, if he'd followed it up with a leg-drop on Steve Bruce's head.
So there are dual aims out on the pitch this afternoon. Liverpool are looking to go back to the top of the Premier League and claim their ninth win on the spin, keeping the Premier League in their own hands ahead of the uber mega mighty big one against Manchester City next Sunday, while West Ham and Allardyce are looking to consolidate their mid-table position and figure out more ways to bore then say eff-you to the proles assembled in the stands. Both, in their own special ways, are noble goals.
Kick off's at 4. Stick around, would you?