Mixed bag for Darren Randolph as Liverpool held by West Ham

Irish ‘keeper at fault for second goal but pulls off quality save to deny Jordan Henderson

 West Ham United’s Darren Randolph covers his face at full time at Anfield. Photograph: Reuters

West Ham United’s Darren Randolph covers his face at full time at Anfield. Photograph: Reuters

 

Liverpool 2 West Ham 2

Darren Randolph covered his head in a towel on the final whistle, hiding the despair that came with gifting Liverpool a point, while four West Ham United players slumped to the ground exhausted and disappointed. The reality was more palatable for Slaven Bilic, however. Humiliation had turned to hope inside a week for a manager under pressure.

In many respects there was more reason for Jürgen Klopp to feel deflated as Liverpool failed to win at home for only the second time this season. They were indebted to the West Ham goalkeeper for presenting Divock Origi with a second-half equaliser after another bout of weak defending enabled the visitors to overturn Adam Lallana’s early strike to lead at the interval.

Dimitri Payet and Michail Antonio gave West Ham a merited interval lead and, though they were encamped deep inside their own half after the interval, this was a result and a committed display that should breed optimism.

One of the biggest concerns for Bilic, indeed any manager, would have been accusations of a lack of fight and application from his players during their miserable opening to the season. That could not be levelled at Anfield where their strength of character was seriously tested after the worst possible start by a team short on confidence following a 5-1 mauling at home last weekend.

The West Ham manager had been humiliated by the manner of Arsenal’s victory and must have feared a reprise and further scrutiny on his job prospects when Liverpool opened the scoring with their first meaningful attack.

There was no sign of fight, belief or organisation in the visiting defence as Liverpool swept down their left too easily, as they did throughout the first half. Sadio Mané exchanged passes with Origi and reached the byline without a challenge in sight. The Belgium international forward just failed to connect with an inviting cross but it dropped to Adam Lallana on the edge of the six yard area and, with Angelo Ogbonna ineffectual and Winston Reid static, he was offered time to control and beat Randolph with a low left foot finish.

Liverpool controlled possession and the flow of the game in the opening stages with West Ham the embodiment of opponents in trouble. But just as defensive frailties persisted in the visitors from last weekend, the same was true of the hosts.

Loris Karius and the defenders around him were again vulnerable under minimal pressure, as in the late collapse at Bournemouth, and Bilic’s forwards found encouragement to haul their team back into the contest. A routine clearance from Winston Reid was sufficient to give Michail Antonio the visitors’ first shot on goal with Liverpool wide open at the back. Karius saved on that occasion but was found wanting when West Ham levelled through Payet.

The intentions of the France international were abundantly clear as soon as Lallana tripped Pedro Obiang 25 yards from Liverpool’s goal. Not that being forewarned aided the Liverpool goalkeeper. Having sized up the free-kick in a central position, Payet curled his effort over the wall and a yard inside Karius’ right hand post. The Germany under-21 international got a hand to the ball but, having positioned himself too far to the left, was unable to deny the set-piece specialist. Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar were sat together in the Anfield crowd and it was not a stretch to imagine them as the old Muppet Show curmudgeons, Statler and Waldorf, as they dissected the 23-year-old’s part in the equaliser.

West Ham’s second was far worse from a Liverpool defensive perspective, however. Bilic’s side were the more threatening team as the first half wore on and their prodigious work-rate, typified by Mark Noble chasing down a lost cause and winning a corner from James Milner, was hugely impressive.

But they were gifted the lead when Havard Nordtveit’s cross deflected off Jordan Henderson’s head and wrong-footed the otherwise commanding Joël Matip. Neither Karius nor Nathaniel Clyne reacted quickly enough to the danger and Antonio was given the freedom of Liverpool’s penalty area to flick the ball around the keeper and watch it trickle over the line.

To their credit, Liverpool responded immediately with Roberto Firmino twice going close before the interval and Payet fortunate not to concede a penalty with a risky push on Lallana. And they drew level courtesy of the biggest goalkeeping error of the game moments after the restart.

There was little threat to the West Ham goal when Mané crossed from the left but Randolph, coming to claim at full stretch, let the ball fall from his grasp on to the toes of Origi. The Liverpool striker could barely believe his luck as he converted via the inside of a post from four yards out.

Klopp’s team laid siege to the visiting defence for the majority of the second half. Georginio Wijnaldum twice went close, Clyne drove over from 18 yards and Randolph atoned for his error with a stunning save to prevent Henderson finding the top corner from fully 30 yards.

Guardian services

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