Karius concern for Klopp but Randolph redeems himself
Liverpool 2 West Ham 2
It is no wonder Jurgen Klopp spends so much time in the technical area. He will never sit in comfort watching his Liverpool side until his goalkeeper radically improves.
Loris Karius still needs to prove as adequate in deflecting shots as he is criticism. At the moment he is not handling either especially well, with another error surrendering Liverpool's advantage as they dropped two points to West Ham.
Slaven Bilic could also argue his side would have won but for a mistake from his No.1, although Darren Randolph (right) would make amends with a world-class save to deny Jordan Henderson later in the game.
However, as former Anfield great Ray Clemence watched on, you could imagine him silently weeping at the drop in goalkeeping standards. Yet again the Premier League delivered on excitement, but that was due to the low-quality shot-stopping as much as the thrilling attacking play.
Karius needs to work on his timing as much as his reflexes.
The cheerleaders gleefully erupted when the German stopper opted to play to the Merseyside gallery by singling out Gary Neville for criticism after the Bournemouth defeat last week.
Quite what Neville - or indeed anyone who watched that game and concluded the keeper was at fault for two goals - said wrong is baffling.
It is understandable that his manager will defend him and dismiss detractors - that is the siege mentality syndrome they all employ - but it does not disguise the fact that opponents are not having to work hard enough to score against Liverpool.
Watch the last six goals they have conceded and ask how many were preventable? At least three. Probably four.
Karius needed a performance to back-up his pre-match self-assurance.
Instead he was again unimpressive, failing to shove away Dmitri Payet's 28th-minute free-kick. He can spend the week finding another ex-United man working in the media to respond to if it makes him feel better, but it does not alter the fact that he is partially responsible for Liverpool dropping five of their last six points.
He may get better. Longer term, he could become the most assured Liverpool keeper since Clemence. But Liverpool are a side still capable of winning the title this year, so spare us the high ground lectures against those justifiably infuriated that such an obvious flaw is undermining their latest challenge.
It was more exasperating for the Kop because, just as at Bournemouth, they had watched their side start as if they were in the mood for a rampage.
Adam Lallana was able to return to the starting line-up for the first time since being injured when playing for England against Spain. He immediately demonstrated what Liverpool have lacked in his absence, controlling exquisitely before drilling the home side ahead on five minutes after Sadio Mane's cross and inadequate West Ham defending.
After the Hammers' mauling by Arsenal a week ago, Bilic must have feared the worst. Instead, his clever use of Michail Antonio as a striker in the first-half bothered Dejan Lovren and, to a lesser extent, Joel Matip on the counter-attacks. There was an early warning when he scurried clear after eight minutes, his shot pushed over by Karius prior to the keeper's travails from Payet's set-piece.
There was more fortune about West Ham's second, six minutes before the break. Havard Nordtveit's long ball was inadvertently flicked on by Jordan Henderson and it wrong-footed Matip, who, that aside, was outstanding. In the clear, Antonio directed the ball beyond Karius, who was again unimposing.
Randolph returned the favour three minutes into the second-half, dropping Mane's cross to enable Divock Origi to tap-in. The festive gift exchanges ended there, with the visitors defending more resolutely the longer the game progressed.
Not for the first time, a fixture list many presumed had Bilic staring into the abyss may have led to his salvation; a point at Old Trafford and Anfield making that 5-1 humiliation against Arsenal an oddity.
"We showed great reaction after the goal," said Bilic, who as a former Besiktas coach dedicated the point to victims of Saturday's terrorist attack in Turkey. "It's a really great point for us before a crucial week."
For Klopp, there is worrying momentum to reverse.
Top of the league before the last international break, Liverpool now find themselves hanging on to the coat-tails of Chelsea heading into the festive period.
The loss of Philippe Coutinho is not helping and the squad suddenly looks much thinner at the busiest, tiring stage. He has a bench full of teenagers and needs the senior men to return.
"It is difficult to stay in the title race with Chelsea when they win everything," said Klopp. "This is the moment to collect as many points as possible. It's a negative we didn't win, but it is still a point.
"We are still in a very good way. We are third. Come on, a lot of teams should feel worse."
Bilic left Merseyside feeling the vote of confidence in him expressed by the West Ham board had gone some way to being validated.
We must wait a while longer for Karius to demonstrate if the show of faith in his skills from Klopp will be similarly rewarded. (© Daily Telegraph, London)