Costly mistakes: Analysing the goalkeeping performances in Liverpool's draw with West Ham
The goalkeepers’ union will surely have been wincing at the displays that Loris Karius and Darren Randolph put in for their respective clubs at Anfield on Sunday. The game itself was a thrilling one, Adam Lallana’s early opener cancelled out by a Dimitri Payet free-kick and a strike by Michail Antonio before the break for the Hammers, before Divock Origi restored parity shortly after the break.
In a game where both Number Ones had only three shots on target each to face, their performances have become the subject of some scrutiny.
After shipping four at Bournemouth last week, Liverpool’s frailties were exposed once again as they let in another two easily avoidable goals. The first of which points the finger of blame firmly towards the Reds’ German shot-stopper Loris Karius.
After missing the start of the season with a broken hand, the German has since been brought into the side as Klopp’s preferred Number One, with Simon Mignolet making way.
Despite minor mistakes being in evidence, the 23-year-old had a relatively untroubled time of it in his first nine games, but having been culpable in the defeat on the South Coast a week ago, with an injury-time spill that allowed Nathan Ake to score Bournemouth’s winner, the pressure is now intensifying after his part in the Hammers’ equaliser.
Dimitri Payet’s free-kick was very well struck, but it was hit centrally down to the keeper’s right. Karius’ positioning was all at sea as his starting position was too far towards his left-hand post, and the strike therefore evaded his outstretched right-hand and sneaked in as the keeper scrambled across his line.
Karius was less culpable for West Ham’s second scored by Antonio, but it was a scrappy goal that did not reflect well on a Liverpool defence that has now shipped 20 goals in 15 league games; the worst record in the current top six.
Havard Nordtveit drilled a hopeful pass from his own half, which took a fortunate ricochet off the head of Jordan Henderson, with the looping ball wrong-footing centre-back Joel Matip and allowing Michail Antonio to nip in and knock the ball beyond the advancing Karius.
Karius’ positioning outside of his six-yard box also warrants scrutiny as it presented Antonio with an easier chance, but that shouldn’t detract from the quality of the finish, caressing the ball past the keeper with a delicate touch with the outside of his right foot.
Despite being equal to the Hammers’ only other shot on target early in the game, Karius still doesn’t look entirely comfortable in claiming the ball, on the only two occasions where he came for crosses, in the sixth and 87th minute, he opted to punch the ball clear in both cases rather than catch it. His kicking and passing were much better however, with 76% accuracy.
A performance overall therefore that didn’t shower the Liverpool goalkeeper in glory, however his blushes would be spared by his opposite number in the West Ham goal, Darren Randolph, epitomising why the goalkeeper’s union is labelled as such.
Surely with the manner of Randolph’s error, you could either say he felt sorry for his gloved opponent or, that this particular set of posts at Anfield was jinxed on the night. Sadio Mané had done well to wriggle beyond Winston Reid on the left of the West Ham box, before he sent a left-footed cross seemingly straight down the throat of the Hammers keeper. Only, Randolph never quite looked in control of the ball, flapping at the cross before dropping the ball straight into the feet of Divock Origi, who gratefully tapped home via the post. A gift of an equaliser for Liverpool.
After having let his opposite number off the hook however, Randolph quickly got back to restoring his reputation, and he was up to the challenge of Liverpool’s only other shot on target. The effort was a snapshot by Jordan Henderson, and reminiscent of his winner against Chelsea in September, the strike look destined for the top corner but Randolph was equal to it, with a splendid aerial diving save for the cameras, tipping the ball away with a strong right-hand.
Randolph’s only other piece of action also came early in the game, when curiously like his opposite number, he opted to punch a cross into the box clear rather than claim it. Despite making undeniably the save of the game, his pass accuracy and kicking wasn’t on the same level as Karius’ with just 40% of his passes, along the ground or in the air, finding their intended target.
All in all, a game where everyone watching was privy to the best and the worst of goalkeeping, but as it is so often with the role, the mistakes a goalkeeper makes are so often the more dwelt upon, as is proving the case with Karius at present. For Randolph, it was a rare mistake in a series of reasonable performances for his team, but in Liverpool’s case, Jurgen Klopp will be hoping he doesn’t have another goalkeeping conundrum on his hands, especially after seeming to have only just seen the back of Simon Mignolet’s antics.
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