Loris Karius blunders costly as West Ham deny Liverpool at Anfield
LIVERPOOL, England -- Three quick thoughts on Liverpool 2-2 West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday.
1. Liverpool's form takes a dip
Liverpool's performance in Sunday's 2-2 draw with West Ham at Anfield was further evidence they have not been the same high-flying team since the recent international break -- winning just one of their four Premier League fixtures since.
Jurgen Klopp's team almost tasted defeat for the second week running, but Divock Origi's fourth goal in as many matches earned Liverpool a frustrating point, which sees them lose further ground on rivals in the title race. The upcoming festive period looks set to test Liverpool's resolve and stretch their title credentials.
Results elsewhere around the Premier League before the game were unkind to both teams -- albeit at opposing ends of the spectrum. Liverpool needed the three points the keep pace with Chelsea and Arsenal in the title race, while Swansea City's win against Sunderland saw West Ham drop into the relegation zone.
Klopp made two changes to his side. Joel Matip and Adam Lallana came in to replace Lucas Leiva and Emre Can, who missed out with a minor knee injury. For the visitors, Bilic will have been relieved as Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio returned to the fold after they both overcame groin strains.
Bilic initially scrapped his tactic of putting three at the back after last week's 5-1 embarrassment against Arsenal, opting to go with the desired solidity of four defenders. However, those admirable plans took a hit when it took just four minutes for Liverpool to break the deadlock through Lallana.
Dimitri Payet has been quiet for the London outfit this campaign, but he still remains a potent threat from set pieces, and proved it from a long-range free kick with 28 minutes on the clock to level proceedings.
The visitors then took the lead when Jordan Henderson deflected a through ball, which rather fortuitously fell right into the path of Antonio, who poked the ball past a hesitant goalkeeper in the 39th minute.
Anfield roared, demanding an improvement, when the home side emerged from the break, and Origi duly delivered. More hapless goalkeeping was on display as Darren Randolph flapped at Sadio Mane's cross to allow Origi to tap in just three minutes into the second period.
Randolph redeemed himself with a fine fingertip save from Henderson at 2-2, denying Liverpool the three points they craved and creating a six-point gap between Klopp's men and leaders Chelsea.
2. Loris Karius endures another poor day
When Liverpool signed Karius, their supporters were told the German goalkeeper was everything Simon Mignolet was not: commanding, calm with possession and reassuring. But the 23-year-old has had a nightmare run of form in his first few months as No. 1.
At fault for at least two of the goals in the 4-3 defeat at Bournemouth, Karius' shakiness was fully exploited by West Ham. He provided an inviting amount of goal for Payet to aim at, resulting in the visitors' leveller. Karius got a hand to the low, curling free kick but was unable to keep it out.
The former Mainz man appeared hesitant for Antonio's goal, too. He looked as if he was the favourite to beat the striker to collect possession, but stood stranded in no man's land. Liverpool's defenders do not appear to trust their new keeper and as Bournemouth's Steve Cook pointed out, teams are now starting to target his vulnerability.
"I would change him for Mignolet," lamented former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher afterwards.
Once again, Klopp is presented with another goalkeeping headache. It was harsh to drop Mignolet in the first place. He had started the season well, deputising while Karius was out nursing a broken hand. Taking Karius out now would make it extremely difficult for him to return in the future, but Klopp may have his hand forced if Karius continues to be the Reds' most glaring weak point.
3. Hammers show fight for boss Bilic
An under-pressure manager with a leaky defence and reeling from a 5-1 defeat, a trip to Anfield was probably the worst fixture Bilic could have hoped for.
His players were criticised by the manager for lacking effort last weekend, but their response to the early blow in this game was far more encouraging, even if it was an improvement by simply not giving up in this case.
If anything, Lallana's goal had the adverse effect on the hosts, while it kick-started West Ham's charge.
The goal which made it 2-2 quickly after the restart could have affected the Hammers but they remained well in the contest right until its conclusion.
A positive or negative result was hardly going to count against Bilic's job security, but the rest of December sees his side face winnable games against Burnley, Hull City, Swansea City and Leicester. This performance provides some much-needed confidence ahead of an apparent make-or-break month for the Croatian.
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.