Liverpool’s top four ambitions were dealt a huge blow last night, as the Leicester City of last season reappeared, minus the sacked Claudio Ranieri, to put them to the sword. The King Power showed support for the Italian, but Leicester’s players were unaffected.
It was all change from both team’s previous league games, where Liverpool had dominated Tottenham at Anfield, and Leicester had fallen to a 2-0 loss away at Swansea. Liverpool, as ever, inconsistent; Leicester having to prove that their decision to turn on Ranieri was the right one, if that can possibly be the case.
Leicester started the game quickly, being more direct than in recent matches, and targeting Lucas at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, playing in the absence of Dejan Lovren. In hindsight, playing the Brazilian was a poor choice, as he was exploited by Jamie Vardy’s pace, but he would have been most people’s choice after a stellar performance against Harry Kane two weeks ago. It is not as if there is a raft of other options for Jurgen Klopp at the back.
It was Vardy who opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark. Gini Wijnaldum, another so impressive in the victory against Spurs but desperately poor last night, gave the ball away, allowing Marc Albrighton to slide a ball through for Vardy to chase.
Once the striker got to the ball, there was no chance of him being caught, and he slotted the ball past Simon Mignolet. This was the Leicester of old, and Liverpool had no answer.
Liverpool failed to adequately respond to going behind, and struggled to keep a hold of the ball. Nothing, though, could be done to stop the rocket of a shot from Danny Drinkwater five minutes before half-time.
James Milner headed the ball clear, and the midfielder smashed a shot into the back of the net before Mignolet could even move. This time, no one was at fault, but the result was the same.
At the break, Leicester deservedly led, but with questions to ask. Where has this kind of performance been all season? Ranieri must have been watching in disbelief.
It took just fifteen minutes for Leicester to kill the game off. Vardy once again the scorer, heading in from a cross from Christian Fuchs.
At 3-0, there was little chance of a revival for Liverpool. Adam Lallana came closest after good link-up between himself and Sadio Mane, but shortly after the pair were withdrawn, replaced by Alberto Moreno and Divock Origi, presumably with next week’s game against Arsenal in mind. This game was now gone.
Philippe Coutinho finished well after Emre Can had burst forward from the back, but it only was a consolation. It took until the last few minutes, when Ben Woodburn replaced Lucas in an attempt to get another goal, for Liverpool to show any urgency at all, and when they did it proved to be in vain.
For Leicester, questions will be asked as to why it took the removal of the man who delivered the impossible last season to be removed from his position for them to show any signs of staying in the division this time around. Their fans and owners, though, will simply be glad of three points to savour. Hull City in their next game requires a similar application and result.
For Liverpool, a disappointing performance: having seemingly turned a corner against Tottenham, this is straight back to square one. It will be an uphill battle to overturn those in front of them in the league, whilst Manchester United in sixth place will overtake them if they win their game in hand.
This was typical Liverpool: a win over a top team followed by defeat to one of those at the bottom. Victory over Arsenal, then points lost at home to Burnley, anyone?
Simon Mignolet, 7 – made an important save at 0-0, but Liverpool could not capitalise; not at fault for any of the goals but still conceded three
Nathaniel Clyne, 7 – offered a bit going forward, but along with James Milner, left Lucas and Matip exposed at times
Joel Matip, 6 – assured on the ball, but struggled with Vardy’s running in behind
Lucas, 6 – brutally exposed by Vardy’s pace; never looked comfortable for the entire game, although it has to be questioned why he was left one-v-one so frequently
James Milner, 6 – offered little going forward and left Lucas on his own too often when he clearly could not cope; not his best showing
Emre Can, 7 – some good play, and created the goal, but simply not at the same level as Jordan Henderson, who was massively missed in midfield
Adam Lallana, 6 – lacked attacking prowess and whilst he showed some good touches at times, was on the periphery and was first to be withdrawn
Gini Wijnaldum, 5 – gave the ball away for the opening goal, and looked sloppy throughout; lost the battle in midfield and looked a shadow of his usual self; seemed shocked at the intensity
Philippe Coutinho, 7 – scored the goal nicely and tried to create, but that is hard in a struggling team; lacks the physicality to go up against Huth and Morgan, who gave him nothing
Roberto Firmino, 6 – lost the ball easily and hardly won a header as he was dominated by the two centre-backs, although Liverpool kept going long, hardly playing to his strengths
Sadio Mane, 5 – seemed that the Vardy tackle in the first minute affected him; never found any space to move into and hardly touched the ball for long periods
Alberto Moreno (66th minute sub), 6 – offered some width but entered play at 3-0 down; was never going to change the game
Divock Origi (66th minute sub), 6 – also entered play too late to make a difference; he struggled to get into the game with Leicester defending a lead and unlikely to relinquish it
Ben Woodburn (84th minute sub) – n/a
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