Liverpool vs. West Ham: Winners and Losers from FA Cup
Liverpool and West Ham United played to a scoreless draw on Saturday in an FA Cup fourth-round match at Anfield.
Following his side's penalty-shootout victory over Stoke City on Tuesday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made 10 changes to his depleted side, retaining only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in the starting XI. The young Reds held their own against West Ham but couldn't convert any of their chances and will now face a replay at Upton Park.
Here, Bleacher Report selects winners and losers from the match.
Winner: Darren Randolph
Darren Randolph was the busier of the two goalkeepers, and the West Ham man acquitted himself well in the visitors' goal.
In the first half, Randolph made a sprawling save to keep out Cameron Brannagan's venomous long-range effort. After the interval, he made several good stops to keep Liverpool at bay.
The 28-year-old kept out Joao Carlos Teixeira in the 63rd minute and again 10 minutes later, both times saving at his near post. But Randolph's best moment came in the 75th minute, when he denied Christian Benteke twice either side of smothering a follow-up attempt by Joe Allen.
Without an alert performance from Randolph in goal, West Ham might be out of the cup.
Loser: Liverpool's Fixture List
January was a brutally busy month for Liverpool, who played nine grueling matches in three different competitions. The congested fixture list prompted manager Jurgen Klopp to select a youthful starting XI against West Ham, and although the kids did fine, the last thing Klopp and Liverpool needed was a replay.
But that's exactly what will happen, with the replay set for Feb. 9. That falls squarely in the middle of two Premier League fixtures for the Reds, at home to Sunderland on Feb. 6 and away to Leicester City eight days later.
As it stands, the comparatively short month of February will offer little relief. In addition to their Premier League obligations, Liverpool will resume their UEFA Europa League campaign on Feb. 25 and take on Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final three days later.
Nobody said it would be easy, but Klopp must be finding his first season in England even more demanding than he imagined.
"We had the bigger chances, but now we have to play again," Klopp told BT Sport (h/t BBC Sport). "West Ham have good quality in their team and play well in the league. We tried everything, [but] you need a bit of luck."
Winners: Cameron Brannagan and Kevin Stewart
Despite having to plan for another fixture, Jurgen Klopp will be pleased with how his youthful squad handled a high-stakes match against a tough Premier League opponent. Several young players performed admirably, with Cameron Brannagan and Kevin Stewart in particular standing out.
Brannagan nearly scored with a fierce drive in the first half, and both players looked assured and confident in midfield, passing well and contributing at both ends of the pitch. At the Daily Mirror, David Maddock reserved special praise for Stewart:
Stewart's emergence in the FA Cup offers some hope to all young players dreaming of a career in the pro ranks, and wondering where their chance will come.
He was on Tottenham's books as a teenager, but despite four years of promise, never made the grade, and when he struggled on loan at Crewe, it seemed his chance had gone. Yet Liverpool took a chance in signing him and at 22 looks to be a reasonably late developer who has potential in the holding role.
Both Stewart and Brannagan will be hoping to parlay their performances into further playing time with the first team.
Loser: A Missed Call in the Box
Liverpool created the better chances on the night, but the game might have played out differently if referee Martin Atkinson had spotted a clear penalty in the second half.
The incident occurred in the 50th minute, when Dimitri Payet curled a free kick into Liverpool's box for the visitors. Nikica Jelavic nodded the ball on, and as replays later showed, Steven Caulker then controlled with his arm inside the area.
It was a clear penalty, and if Atkinson had spotted it, West Ham would have had a huge chance to go ahead. Afterwards, however, manager Slaven Bilic took a philosophical stance on the incident.
"I didn't see the replays, so I can't comment," he told BT Sport (h/t BBC Sport). "I shouted a few times, they shouted a few times, the crowd shouted a few times, but that is part of the game."
Loser: Christian Benteke
This has become a familiar refrain by now, and it's one that must be growing weary for Liverpool's supporters. Christian Benteke started and played the full 90 minutes for the Reds, and over those 90 minutes, he was nowhere near good enough.
In the 23rd minute, the big Belgian failed to latch onto a Cameron Brannagan free kick at the back post, allowing a decent chance to pass him by. Then, in the 68th minute, he was unable to react quickly enough to turn Kevin Stewart's volley on target.
Two more openings followed in the 75th minute, but Benteke failed to test Darren Randolph with his initial shot and then again with a another attempt moments later.
In fairness, Benteke did come close with a first-half header that was cleared off West Ham's line. But he wasn't nearly sharp enough overall, and Jurgen Klopp can't have been impressed.