International

Liverpool face fixture pile-up after Hammers draw

2016-01-31 06:51
Jurgen Klopp (Getty Images)

Liverpool - Jurgen Klopp faces an unwanted fixture pile-up after Liverpool were held to a dour 0-0 draw by West Ham in the FA Cup fourth round at Anfield on Saturday.

Reds boss Klopp picked a fairly inexperienced team in order to give several senior players a rest, but the stand-ins were unable to find a winner against opponents who lost James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate to first-half injuries.

Young midfielders Cameron Brannagan and Joao Teixeira had shots beaten away by Hammers goalkeeper Darren Randolph, who was only playing because first choice Adrian had returned home to Seville to attend the birth of his first child.

Christian Benteke also failed to convert three second-half chances, meaning Klopp's side must travel to Upton Park for a replay next month.

Liverpool, who are still competing in four competitions, have played nine matches during January, and now face at least seven in February.

The last thing Klopp would have wanted was a replay, but that was exactly what he got after making 10 changes to the team who secured a League Cup final showdown against Manchester City by overcoming Stoke on Tuesday.

Only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet retained his place and West Ham carried the greater early threat as Dimitri Payet's inswinging free-kick from the right brushed the outside of the near post on its way wide.

Then Aaron Cresswell got down the left to deliver a cross that eluded both Dejan Lovren and Steven Caulker, but an unmarked Enner Valencia made a mess of his header, and sent the ball back from whence it came.

Brannagan, making only his fourth start for Liverpool, showed some neat touches, particularly with his set-piece deliveries.

One near-post corner was met with a Benteke flick that Cresswell cleared just in front of the line, while a superb inswinging free-kick was crying out for a glancing header from the former Aston Villa forward, who failed to provide one.

There was a painful early end to the evening for West Ham full-back Tomkins, who had to be taken off after receiving a cut to the head in an aerial collision with Joe Allen.

As the visitors tried to make a substitution, Brannagan almost scored with a terrific 30-yard shot that Randolph did well to turn aside - moments before Hammers midfielder Kouyate limped off to be replaced by former Everton striker Nikica Jelavic.

Despite the enforced double substitution, West Ham finished the first half strongly, with Pedro Obiang's 25-yard volley flying just wide.

Payet caused Liverpool's defence all sorts of problems with another of his inswinging free-kicks early in the second half, with the ball striking Caulker on the arm before Winston Reid's effort was scrambled clear.

At the other end, Reid faced a penalty appeal against him, escaping punishment when tugging Kevin Stewart's shirt as the young midfielder attempted to fashion space for a cross down the left.

Liverpool began to create more chances, with Nathaniel Clyne bending a shot into the Kop, and Allen blazing over after good approach play from Jordon Ibe, before Teixeira's snapshot was beaten away at the near post by Randolph.

Benteke was guilty of the worst miss, mis-controlling the ball in the direction of the corner flag when Stewart's mis-hit bobbled towards him six yards from goal.

By now, West Ham were looking stretched, with Randolph pushing out another Teixeira shot, then saving twice from Benteke after the striker had been played clear by Ibe.

Hammers substitute Michail Antonio had a penalty appeal rejected amid a goalmouth scramble after Mignolet had flapped at a free-kick, then headed against the post - although he had already been penalised for a push.

Read more on:    west ham  |  liverpool  |  fa cup  |  jurgen klopp  |  soccer
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