By Jamie McGeever
LONDON (Reuters) – West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic hailed Andy Carroll as the “cherry on the pie” after the injury-prone striker headed his side to a convincing 2-0 victory over Liverpool on Saturday.
The result stretched West Ham’s unbeaten run to seven games, and marked the team’s first league double over Liverpool in more than 50 years.
It also lifted the East Londoners to fifth place in the Premier League and above Liverpool, who once paid 35 million pounds ($51.60 million) to make Carroll the club’s record signing.
“Andy was brilliant, not because of the goal but his performance, everything. Defending, holding the ball up, tracking back,” Bilic told reporters.
“It’s always about the team but sometimes an individual becomes like the cherry on the pie. But you have to have the pie, and the pie is the team,” added the Croatian.
Carroll, who joined the Hammers from Liverpool in 2012, may have failed to settle on Merseyside but he was a thorn in Juergen Klopp’s inconsistent side all afternoon.
He also completed the full 90 minutes — something he has rarely managed in recent years.
A fit and in-form Carroll would be a welcome bonus for England manager Roy Hodgson as he prepares for this year’s European Championship in France but Bilic played down expectations.
“Now he’s fit. Is he going to look after himself, train, work hard and rest to maintain this position? Only then will he become a great asset for us,” he said.
“It’s up to him. I expect him to stick to what he’s done recently. He would be very stupid to do otherwise.”
West Ham were worthy winners, giving Liverpool manager Klopp a lesson in his much-touted “gegenpressing” approach.
Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate were relentless in midfield while James Collins delivered a man-of-the-match performance at the back.
The first goal came in the 10th minute when Michail Antonio heading in a cross from the right by Ecuadorean striker Enner Valencia.
It was also controversial, with Liverpool claiming Antonio had fouled Alberto Moreno before racing the length of the pitch to score.
Carroll’s left no argument, however, with the powerful Englishman rising to Mark Noble’s cross with a trademark header in the 55th minute.
($1 = 0.6783 pounds)
(Reporting by Jamie McGeever, editing by Alan Baldwin)