Liverpool 0 West Ham 0
Liverpool were held to a goalless draw at home to West Ham in the FA Cup fourth round, adding yet another fixture to their packed schedule.
A replay in east London next month was probably the last thing manager Jurgen Klopp wanted, having just completed a run of nine matches in 29 days in January.
It will, at least, give some of his promising youngsters another run-out with the first team, with 19-year-old Cameron Brannagan the best outfield player on the pitch at Anfield.
However, with the Europa League to restart and a Capital One Cup final appearance, secured on Tuesday, meaning they have a Merseyside derby to reschedule, any additional games are unwelcome.
These two teams had played out a classic cup final in Cardiff in 2006, memorable for Steven Gerrard’s late long-range equaliser, but with the Reds’ once-influential captain now long gone and playing his trade in the United States there were few players to lift the game above the ordinary.
West Ham’s own dangerman Dimitri Payet, included in a strong starting XI, had one of his quieter days and Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was not overly exerted.
Not so Darren Randolph, West Ham’s back-up keeper, who produced one excellent save from Brannagan in the first half and succession of blocks after the break.
West Ham could have taken an early lead only for Enner Valencia to make a complete mess of his diving free header, almost sending it out for a throw-in from a cross by Aaron Cresswell. The full-back proved his worth at the other end by clearing Christian Benteke’s flick-on off the line.
Shortly before the break James Tomkins, after a clash of heads with Joe Allen, and midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate departed to injury to disrupt the visitors’ plans and from then Liverpool – a Pedro Obiang volley excepted – held the initiative.
Allen blazed over and Joao Teixeira twice had shots batted away by Randolph, who also denied Allen and Benteke – twice – within seconds of each other.
Benteke, once again ineffectual, produced a contender for miss of the match to rival Valencia’s early effort when he mis-kicked Kevin Stewart’s cross and succeeded in only steering his effort across the six-yard box.
Desperation increasingly crept in as Liverpool tried to force the goal which would avoid another game and that gave the Hammers a glimmer of an opportunity but they could not break through either.