London, February 5: Leaders Liverpool faltered in the Premier League title race for the second time in six days as they were held to a 1-1 draw at West Ham United on Monday.
After being held at home by Leicester City last Wednesday, then seeing closest rivals Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur close the gap at the weekend, Juergen Klopp’s side needed to send out a statement of intent.
But they failed to build on Sadio Mane’s rather fortuitous goal after 22 minutes and West Ham, who equalised six minutes later through Michail Antonio, deserved at least a point.
Substitute Divock Origi wasted a chance in stoppage time for the visitors but it would have been harsh on West Ham who snapped a run of four consecutive league defeats by Liverpool in which they conceded four goals in each.
“It was a tough game,” Klopp said. “Apparently our goal was offside and maybe the referee knew that in the second half. It’s a point and a fair point.”
Had West Ham taken their chances against a jittery Liverpool side it could have been worse for the visitors who can be knocked off the top on goal difference if Manchester City beat Everton in a re-arranged fixture on Wednesday.
Liverpool looked unusually hesitant in defence and Javier Hernandez and Aaron Cresswell both went close for the Hammers before Liverpool took the lead.
Their fans were celebrating though when James Milner, who looked clearly offside, received the ball on the right and crossed low for Mane who took a touch before swiveling and firing past Lukasz Fabianski.
The lead lasted only six minutes though as Liverpool switched off at a free kick and Naby Keita failed to track the run of Antonio who fired inside Alisson’s far post.
Liverpool had a huge let-off minutes before the break when Felipe Anderson’s free kick found youngster Declan Rice completely unmarked but he headed wide of a gaping goal.
Mohamed Salah had three goal attempts in quick succession after the break but West Ham skipper Mark Noble should have put his side ahead when he shot over from a central position.
Manchester United rebound makes Solskjaer favourite for hot seat: McClaren
Manchester United will have an easy managerial decision on their hands if caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer keeps building on his splendid start at Old Trafford, former England manager Steve McClaren has said.
Having replaced Jose Mourinho in December, Solskjaer has collected seven wins and a draw in the Premier League to guide a rejuvenated United to within two points of the top four.
United will appoint a new permanent manager at the end of the season and McClaren, who coached Solskjaer during United’s treble-winning campaign as Alex Ferguson’s assistant in 1999, said the Norwegian has exceeded expectations under pressure.
“I think everyone was astonished at the appointment,” McClaren, who is currently in charge of Queens Park Rangers, told Sky Sports.
“(But) I know Ole well. He’s a thinker and he’s intelligent.
“They’ve played exciting, attacking, Manchester United old traditional football. And if it continues to work, I think Manchester United will have an easy decision to make at the end of the season.”
After starting with a relatively comfortable run of fixtures, Solskjaer’s United showed tactical maturity in away wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City, as well a commanding FA Cup fourth round win away at Arsenal.
Solskjaer’s former team mate Jordi Cruyff said the former Cardiff manager has revived United by “unblocking the minds of the players”.
“His work has been more mental, talking to the players and pressing the right buttons to get the best out of them,” Cruyff told the BBC.
“The quality is there. They are good players. From the outside, he has touched their minds and put an arm around their shoulder. (Agencies)