In an intriguing encounter, the Hammers took an early lead through Spanish midfielder Pablo Fornals’ smart finish, which clipped the post on its way in after a poor headed clearance by Joe Gomez.
That was the 15th goal Liverpool have conceded in seven games this season – as many as Chelsea let in all season on their way to the title in 2004-05.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were level shortly before half-time, Arthur Masuaku’s foul on Mohamed Salah allowing the Egypt forward to equalise from the penalty spot with Liverpool’s first attempt on target.
But the Reds, who gave a league debut to central defender Nathaniel Phillips in the absence of injured duo Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho, found it tough going.
Jota, a £41m signing from Wolves in September, netted in the 85th minute after a smart pass by fellow substitute Xherdan Shaqiri – moments after Jota had a goal disallowed for a foul.
Liverpool equalled a club record 63 league games unbeaten at Anfield set by Bob Paisley’s all-conquering side between February 1978 and December 1981.
‘Jota’s much better than I thought he would be’
Liverpool are back on top of the Premier League table for the first time since they ended last season as champions but they were far from their fluent best.
They are three points clear of neighbours Everton, who will return to the summit if they win at Newcastle on Sunday (14:00 GMT).
Question marks remain over Liverpool’s defence, which has now conceded 27 in 14 matches since Klopp’s side were confirmed Premier League champions in June.
Phillips, whose dad, Jimmy, played against Liverpool for Bolton in the 1995 League Cup final, at least provided an aerial presence, the 23-year-old making a series of headed clearances during a commanding performance.
It was his more experienced defensive partner Gomez who was at fault for West Ham’s goal, the England centre-back heading Masuaku’s cross straight into the path of Fornals to put David Moyes’ side ahead.
Salah levelled with Liverpool’s first attempt on target after hitting his penalty straight down the middle before Jota’s introduction from the bench lifted the side.
The Portugal forward had the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for Sadio Mane’s foul on Angelo Ogbonna after referee Kevin Friend watched a replay on the pitchside monitor.
However, Jota was not to be denied as he lashed past keeper Lukasz Fabianski in front of an empty Kop following a delightful pass by Shaqiri that split the West Ham defence.
“He’s much better than I thought he would be and that’s really impressive,” Klopp said after Jota’s latest goal.
“He’s an exceptional talent. He has the speed, physicality, technique, and he’s both-footed.”
Gutsy West Ham just fall short
Having held Manchester City last week, this was another gutsy performance by West Ham, who attacked in numbers and gave Liverpool a real scare.
They arrived at Anfield unbeaten in their previous four games against sides who finished in the top seven last season.
However, they were without key forward Michail Antonio, who scored a superb goal against City before suffering a hamstring injury.
After being restricted to 50 minutes of Premier League football this season, Sebastien Haller was handed his first top-flight start of the season in place of Antonio.
However, it was midfielder Fornals who produced a lovely finish to put his side ahead.
After Salah equalised, the former Villarreal player was denied a second goal by Andrew Robertson’s important block, yet West Ham were undone at the end by Jota.
“It’s a good sign that we’re disappointed not to take anything from Anfield,” said Moyes after West Ham’s first league defeat since 19 September.
“We had really good opportunities to maybe get a second goal. I wanted it to be more than just the odd counter-attack. We were a threat, we were well organised and disciplined in the jobs we had to do.”
‘Our player is so disappointed with the dive’ – what they said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “It’s so difficult with the number of games we have. Seeing the determination and desire of the boys, the will to play football, to deal with setbacks is really exceptional.
“The tricky thing is that you have to be patient, but also lively to keep them moving. It’s a constant concentration level you have to keep up, which we did – except maybe for their goal.”
West Ham boss David Moyes on Liverpool’s penalty: “It’s not the sort of football I want to be involved in.
“I think our player stops and throws his arms up because he’s so disappointed about the dive.
“I’m just disappointed they didn’t turn the decision around. Maybe in the second half the decision [Jota’s disallowed goal] went for us, but the first-half one didn’t.”
Top of the table but defensive questions remain – the stats
- Only Aston Villa in 1897-98 (17) have conceded more goals in their first seven league matches as reigning top-flight champions than Liverpool this season (15). The Reds took 23 games to concede 15 Premier League goals last season.
- Since David Moyes’ first game back in charge of West Ham in January, the Hammers have dropped more points from winning positions than any other side in the Premier League (16).
- Liverpool have conceded the first goal in three of their four home league games this season – as many times as they did in all 19 league matches at Anfield last term.
- Since the start of last season, West Ham’s Pablo Fornals is the only visiting player to score two Premier League goals away to Liverpool, also netting in this exact fixture for the Hammers in 2019-20.
- Liverpool are only the second side in Premier League history to concede the first goal in three consecutive home matches but still win all three, after Blackburn Rovers in November 2009.
Liverpool head to Italy next to face Champions League Group D rivals Atalanta on Tuesday (20:00 GMT), while West Ham have a full week to prepare for a London derby with Fulham at London Stadium on Saturday, 7 November (20:00 GMT).