Liverpool were once again dominant but unable to turn clear-cut chances into goals as they crashed out of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Leicester in the third round.
The Reds completely controlled the first half, starting in a forward-thinking and positive manner, but failed to take any of their chances.
Andrew Robertson was being given acres of space on the left side, and he provided quality balls into the box time and time again, but no one was able to connect with them.
The first of a string of crosses from the Scot fell for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, making his first Liverpool start, but the winger’s shot was blocked. It was a sign of things to come.
After ten minutes, Philippe Coutinho fired in a powerful effort having glided past a couple of defenders, but goalkeeper Ben Hamer was able to make the save, pushing the ball away to his right.
Marko Grujic, who was powerful and impressive particularly in the first half, headed wide from a corner before Coutinho again tested Hamer, and it was all one-way traffic.
Oxlade-Chamberlain got in behind soon later but massively over-hit a cross, which flew out of play for a goal-kick.
After 20 minutes, Demarai Gray found space after leaving Jon Flanagan in his wake, but his shot was straight at Danny Ward, who would have been glad to finally get a touch of the ball.
Robertson found Solanke with a delicious ball in but the England youth player could not steer the ball home, before a second cross to him, also from Robertson, fell back for the full-back to shoot.
His effort was heading wide when Wes Morgan got a touch on, but referee Stuart Attwell awarded a goal-kick. It should have been in the back of the net regardless.
Vicente Iborra’s cross-field ball was played straight into touch, a sign of how Leicester’s night was going, but as much as Liverpool pressed for the opening goal, they just could not find a finish.
Coutinho blasted a free-kick wide in a rare moment of poor play in a decent first half showing, and then played a super ball through for Solanke to chase.
The striker’s shot was clipped over the onrushing Hamer, but sailed over the bar too.
On the stroke of half-time, that was Liverpool’s biggest chance, but just like all the others, it ended up being missed.
At the break, Jurgen Klopp would have been happy with the performance, with Leicester offering no threat, and a goal seemingly on the horizon, but the in second half the tide well and truly changed.
Coutinho made way for Ben Woodburn, a pre-planned change designed to give the Brazilian minutes on the pitch, but also a rest with Leicester again to come in the league on Saturday and then the Champions League the following midweek.
From then on, the Reds lost impetus, but it was an injury that really made the difference.
Leonardo Ulloa was unchallenged as he went up for a header, but the ball struck him in the face, and he staggered to the ground in a bizarre fashion.
Having struggled on for a few minutes, he was replaced by Shinji Okazaki, who was to become the match winner.
The Japanese forward added pace to the home side’s play, and a link between a badly disconnected midfield and attack, and it was he who finally gave Liverpool something to think about going the other way.
On 65 minutes, Okazaki scored a goal from only Leicester’s second shot on target of the game. Having been completely outplayed for the first half, the Foxes were somehow in front.
In a similar situation to the goal conceded against Burnley on Saturday, Liverpool left a man free inside their own penalty area, and the ball fell kindly for Okazaki to slot home.
“I’m sick of goals like this,” Klopp said come the end of the game, but Liverpool’s inability to defend simple crosses into the box is a major concern that still needs addressing.
Danny Ings made his return to first team action with a little over a quarter of an hour left to play, but soon after he replaced Gini Wijnaldum, the game was over.
Islam Slimani rifled a perfect shot into the top corner leaving Danny Ward with no chance, showing Liverpool’s players the way to finish.
After that, Liverpool seemed to accept the defeat. At 2-0, and with no sign that they might score a goal having tried and failed all night, the game was done and dusted.
Very few at Liverpool will be too disappointing with exiting the cup that was their lowest possible priority, but the manner of the defeat, with goals conceded far too easily and mistakes almost identical to those made in previous weeks, is the biggest concern.
Klopp will have to hope that the likes of Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge can fashion the same quality of chances next weekend, and be able to put them away.
Danny Ward, 6 – was largely a spectator and not at all at fault for either goal; made a good catch from a free-kick, but had little to do
Jon Flanagan, 6 – a limited player at the best of times; did nothing fancy but got done at least three times by Gray and looked a weak link
Joe Gomez, 6 – should have done better for the first goal; played some poor passes out from the back and still has a lot to learn
Ragnar Klavan, 6 – nothing to do in the first half and could not cope when he was tested in the second
Andrew Robertson, 7 – very good in the first half with some perfect balls into dangerous areas, but tailed off in the second period
Jordan Henderson, 6 – tried his best to dictate, but not at his sharpest
Marko Grujic, 7 – very impressive in the first half but got booked for a stupid tackle in the second and then just looked scared of making another challenge in fear of being sent off
Gini Wijnaldum, 5 – did well early on but then got quieter and quieter and was eventually replaced
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 4 – got into some great positions but had no end product; has a lot to do to convince anyone that he deserves a spot in the team more regularly
Dominic Solanke, 6 – went close a couple of times but must be more ruthless; showed some excellent touches and brought others into play on numerous occasions
Philippe Coutinho, 7 – a good half of football much closer to the level we know he can reach; will have benefited from a run-out and will enjoy playing with Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah next time out, who are more likely to convert the chances he creates
Ben Woodburn (45th minute sub.), 6 – came close with one effort that narrowly missed the target and was involved sporadically, but could not convert any opportunities
Danny Ings (73rd minute sub.), 6 – had one chance with his head but could not connect; not a lot he could do to influence the result at 2-0 down
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