Monday 19 March 2018

Klopp forced into replay as Randolph frustrates Reds

Liverpool 0 West Ham Utd 0

Liverpool’s Joe Allen is foiled by Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham at Anfield last night. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Liverpool’s Joe Allen is foiled by Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham at Anfield last night. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaks with Cameron Brannagan after the final whistle. PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Angelo Ogbonna Obinza of West Ham United battles with Christian Benteke (L) and Joao Carlos Teixeira. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Nikica Jelavic (C) is challenged by Liverpool's Nathaniel Clyne (L) and Steven Caulker. PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool's Cameron Brannagan (C) is challenged by Nikica Jelavic. PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Andy Hunter

Jurgen Klopp and Slaven Bilic fell laughing into each other's arms after Joey O'Brien sliced a shot into the bored spectators in the Anfield Road end. It was a rare opportunity for West Ham United and a rare moment of levity for the Liverpool manager. He will not be amused at another replay being added to Liverpool's already congested fixture list.

Klopp was honest enough to admit on the eve of the fourth-round tie that a replay was not the outcome he desired at Anfield. He got it anyway as the Premier League sides served up a lacklustre contest that was only enlightened by the contribution of the young Liverpool players Klopp turned to once again.

The manager rang the changes, with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet the only player to start both the fourth-round tie and Tuesday's Capital One Cup semi-final win over Stoke City. It was a credit to the makeshift side he constructed, and its young midfield trio of Joao Teixeira, Cameron Brannagan and Kevin Stewart in particular, that the clearer threat and understanding came from those in red for the opening 35 minutes.

Whereas his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers, rightly bemoaned a lack of leaders at Anfield, Klopp evidently believes experienced players who have graduated to Liverpool should be capable of taking responsibility. Joe Allen followed Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Lucas Leiva, Kolo Toure, Christian Benteke and Jose Enrique in captaining Liverpool under their German coach, but it was the young midfielders around him who stood out.

Stewart was tenacious in the holding role, Brannagan brought composure and Teixiera's touch improved gradually against a disrupted visiting defence.

First-choice goalkeeper Adrian had been allowed to return home to Seville to attend the birth of his first child with Darren Randolph deputising.

James Tomkins returned at right-back with Sam Byram cup-tied and Carl Jenkinson a long-term absentee, but he was forced off in the first half following a clash of heads with Allen. Bilic made a tactical switch moments later, withdrawing midfielder Kouyate for Nikica Jelavic, with West Ham struggling to retain possession in the final third.

That said, Valencia should have opened the scoring when Aaron Cresswell's cross from the left evaded Dejan Lovren to find the Ecuadorian unmarked in front of goal. He managed to steer a diving header out to Nathaniel Clyne near the corner flag. Payet picked out Kouyate with another accurate cross from the left. The midfielder opted to head back across goal and his penalty appeal for handball against Brad Smith was ignored.

Randolph was the busier keeper in the first half. Brannagan came closest for Liverpool with a 25-yard drive that Randolph tipped around the post, Cresswell cleared in front of his goal-line from a Benteke header and the Belgium striker failed to connect with a Brannagan free-kick plus a penetrating pass from Teixeira.

A sterile tie was in need of incident and more alert officials might have provided it when Caulker handled inside the Liverpool area shortly after the restart.

The home side should have capitalised when Clyne's square pass presented Allen with a clear sight of goal but, under little pressure and 18 yards out, the midfielder blazed horribly over. But Liverpool were undeterred and Randolph's goal came under sustained pressure as West Ham struggled to respond.

Allen failed to pick out Benteke when free inside the box, Randolph saved twice from Teixeira and the former Aston Villa forward miscued when Stewart's shot dropped into his path in front of goal.

Liverpool's brightest moment brought out the best in West Ham's stand-in keeper. Randolph made three fine saves in quick succession as Benteke met Jordon Ibe's pass with a first time shot, Allen charged in for the rebound and the Belgian had a second bite. West Ham substitute Michail Antonio headed against a post in the final minute but only after Cresswell's cross had sailed out of play, according to Martin Atkinson.


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