West Ham 0
Though Jürgen Klopp spared most of Liverpool's senior squad for its fourth round FA Cup clash against West Ham, the occasion contained extra spark given the way the Hammers embarrassed the Reds earlier in the season. The final result -- a tightly contested 0-0 draw in which both sides could have advanced -- means another fixture in a busy campaign, but the performance was nonetheless encouraging for Liverpool.
Liverpool's starting eleven featured a mix of regulars and inexperienced youngsters. Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Steven Caulker and Brad Smith combined to form a solid back line that did well to minimize West Ham's attacking threat. In the midfield, Joe Allen provided experienced calm alongside Kevin Stewart and Cameron Brannagan. Jordon Ibe and Joao Carlos Teixeira floated just behind Christian Benteke in the attack.
West Ham started strong and should have scored 15 minutes in when Aaron Cresswell whipped in a cross from the left, finding a wide open Enner Valencia in the middle of the box. However, the striker failed to put his header on target, squandering a big early chance.
Liverpool came close to making West Ham pay for their wastefulness on multiple occasions in the first half but could not find the back of the net despite some positive attacking interplay. The closest the Reds came to a first half breakthrough was 5 minutes in when a lively Brannagan unleashed a powerful effort from outside the box that goalkeeper Darren Randolph barely tipped around the post.
West Ham lost two players to injury in the first 45, as James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyaté were forced off. The loss of those two influential players shifted things in Liverpool's favor, and the hosts looked the most likely to nab a victory in the second half.
Teixeira went close a couple of times but was denied by Randolph's quick reflexes on both occasions. Rather unfortunately, the two best chances of the match fell to Benteke, with the striker continuing his run of substandard finishing. The first big Benteke chance came from very little: Kevin Stewart shanked a volley from outside the box and the bouncing ball somehow evaded the West Ham defense before finding Benteke right in front of goal. The Belgian seemed surprised by the stroke of luck and could not make proper contact with the bouncing ball. Then, Ibe opened up the defense with through ball to Benteke, and after an initial double save the ball fell to the striker in the middle of the box but again he could not score. On replay it looked as if Benteke should have slid a pass across to Teixeira, who would have had an empty net to aim at.
Liverpool could not find victory against West Ham, but simply holding their own against the Hammers -- especially when playing with a team of youngsters -- is definite progress. The Reds remain alive in both domestic cup competitions along with the Europa League and will look to keep it that way when they face West Ham for a fourth time at Upton Park in a couple of weeks in the replay match.