Liverpool 0 West Ham 0
Darren Randolph is in a curious position. The goalkeeper is set to go to Euro 2016 as the Republic of Ireland’s first choice, but remains second in the pecking order at West Ham.
Despite his inspired performance against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday, his status is unlikely to change.
Assuming that Adrian stays fit and well, Randolph’s best hope of getting match time with his club between now and the summer is a good FA Cup run.
That would be unchartered territory for the Bray-born ’keeper.
“I’ve never had a good run in the cup at any club,” he said.
“At Birmingham, we lost to West Brom, and at Charlton we never did anything in any cups, so it would be nice to have a good run.”
Randolph certainly played his part in ensuring West Ham’s FA Cup interest was not ended at the weekend. He made a series of excellent saves; but two moments stood out.
In the first half, he dived full length to his left to push aside a 25-yard shot from Cameron Brannagan, who was grabbing his chance to impress in midfield as manager Jurgen Klopp rested most of his key players.
Better still was the treble stop he made in the second half to deny an off-form Christian Benteke twice and stand-in Liverpool captain Joe Allen once.
It was a save fit for any goalkeeper coaching DVD; Randolph narrowed the angles perfectly as Benteke raced onto Jordon Ibe’s through ball, then was up quickly to block the two follow-up efforts.
Martin O’Neill, the Republic of Ireland manager, would have been encouraged by the ’keeper’s display.
And yet it is unlikely to be enough to keep him in the West Ham team for tomorrow night’s Premier League home match against Aston Villa.
Adrian, who was not in line to play at Anfield in any case, left the squad on Saturday morning to return home to Seville in order to attend the birth of his first child.
The Spanish ’keeper is expected to be back in time for the Villa game, leaving Randolph to return to the bench.
“Every game is an opportunity,” Randolph said.
“I don’t get that many opportunities.
“So any that I do get, I have to show and remind people what I can do.
“I’m just happy to play whenever I can.
“The manager told me at the start of the week that I’d be playing, because it was the FA Cup. I knew all week that I was going to be playing even if Adrian was here.
”Randolph, though, should return for the replay against Liverpool, which is good news for him.
By contrast, another fixture was the very last thing Klopp needed.
His side are still going in four competitions, and have played 37 games already this season.
It remains possible that they could end up playing 69 by the end of the campaign.
Liverpool faced nine matches during a frantic January.
They will play at least seven in February, and that tally will rise to eight if they win at Upton Park to make round five.
Klopp did not have to contend with cup replays when he was at Borussia Dortmund, as all knockout matches in Germany are decided at the first attempt, by extra-time and penalties if necessary.
He does not, though, feel it is his place to start trying to change the English game.
“I don’t say anything,” Klopp said.
“These are your rules and I think most of them are older than we are. I am not allowed to comment — I ask my mother.”
It is unclear what Mrs Klopp’s views on cup replays might be; although the changes that the Liverpool manager made on Saturday at least gave his fringe players a chance to shine.
Brannagan took his, while fellow midfielders Joao Teixeira and Kevin Stewart looked useful, as did left-back Brad Smith.
The senior players who did feature looked rather less impressive. Benteke lacked threat up front, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet looked nervous, centre-back Dejan Lovren was caught out of position on a couple of occasions.
Midfielder Allen, captaining Liverpool for the first time, felt there was promise in the performance of the young players, though, particularly Brannagan.
He said: “He caught my eye as soon as he started training with us and got into the first team.
“The games he played he really impressed and showed a lot of quality.
“He is the type of player I really like.”
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Mignolet 6; Clyne 6, Lovren 6, Caulker 6, Smith 6; Brannagan 7 (Sinclair 86), Allen 6, Stewart 6; Ibe 5 (Ojo 80), Benteke 4, Teixeira 6 (Enrique 90).
Subs not used: Ward, Ilori, Chirivella, Randall.
WEST HAM (4-3-2-1): Randolph 8; Tomkins 6 (O’Brien 34, 7), Reid 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6; Kouyate 6 (Jelavic 37, 5), Song 5, Obiang 6; Moses 5 (Antonio 70, 6), Payet 6; Valencia 5.
Subs: Howes, Collins, Cullen, Oxford.
Referee: Martin Atkinson 6
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