Goalless Liverpool limp into pole position
After Chelsea lost 2-1 to Arsenal on Sunday the stage was set for Rafael Benitez's side to seize the initiative in the title race but they produced a subdued display against a resolute West Ham.
A draw was enough to move Liverpool one point clear and they were thankful a long-range shot from former striker Craig Bellamy struck the woodwork in the first half.
Liverpool, also held 0-0 by Fulham in their previous home league game, have 34 points from 15 matches with Chelsea on 33. Champions Manchester United have 28 with a game in hand.
Some home fans booed at the end of a frustrating evening but Benitez was upbeat.
"If you play badly, don't have chances and the other team is in control you can be worried ... but we were much better," Benitez told the club website (www.liverpoolfc.tv).
"The crowd can be disappointed because they've seen a draw at home but if they see the newspapers tomorrow they will see we are top."
West Ham have not won at Anfield in the league since 1963 and were content to sit back and defend in depth.
Liverpool could not find any passing rhythm and their best chances came from corners and set pieces with defender Sami Hyypia twice going close with headers.
West Ham's one counter-attack before halftime almost ended in a goal when Bellamy unleashed a shot which beat keeper Pepe Reina and rebounded off the inside of the post.
The second half produced more in the way of goalmouth action as Liverpool swarmed forward.
Yossi Benayoun produced the save of the night from West Ham keeper Robert Green with a rising shot from an acute angle.
Carlton Cole wasted a good opportunity for West Ham when he headed wide while Green reacted well in the closing minutes to deny Dirk Kuyt.