• Liverpool faces fixture pile-up after Hammers stalemate

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    LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp faces an unwanted fixture pile-up after Liverpool were held to a dour 0-0 draw by West Ham in the FA Cup fourth round at Anfield on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

    Reds boss Klopp picked a fairly inexperienced team in order to give several senior players a rest, but the stand-ins were unable to find a winner against opponents who lost James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate to first-half injuries.

    Young midfielders Cameron Brannagan and Joao Teixeira had shots beaten away by Hammers goalkeeper Darren Randolph, who was only playing because first choice Adrian had returned home to Seville to attend the birth of his first child.

    Christian Benteke also failed to convert three second-half chances, meaning Klopp’s side must travel to Upton Park for a replay next month.

    Liverpool, who are still competing in four competitions, have played nine matches during January, and now face at least seven in February.

    The last thing Klopp would have wanted was a replay, but that was exactly what he got after making 10 changes to the team who secured a League Cup final showdown against Manchester City by overcoming Stoke on Tuesday.

    Only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet retained his place and West Ham carried the greater early threat as Dimitri Payet’s inswinging free-kick from the right brushed the outside of the near post on its way wide.

    Then Aaron Cresswell got down the left to deliver a cross that eluded both Dejan Lovren and Steven Caulker, but an unmarked Enner Valencia made a mess of his header, and sent the ball back from whence it came.

    Brannagan, making only his fourth start for Liverpool, showed some neat touches, particularly with his set-piece deliveries.

    One near-post corner was met with a Benteke flick that Cresswell cleared just in front of the line, while a superb inswinging free-kick was crying out for a glancing header from the former Aston Villa forward, who failed to provide one.

    AFP

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