Venue: King Power Stadium, Leicester
As a result of those strange fixture anomalies that football can sometimes provide us with, Liverpool had to revisit the King Power Stadium this evening. Leicester, of course, had been the venue for the Reds’ early exit from the Carabao Cup last Tuesday night.
The two starting elevens today were vastly different from those on Tuesday night, however. Leicester welcomed back players like Vardy, Mahrez, Schmeichel, Maguire and Andy King. While Tuesday’s man of the match, Okazaki, was starting in his normal role, just behind Jamie Vardy.
Matip, Lovren and Emre Can both made the starting lineup after injury worries that were reported on Thursday. Moreno returned at left-back, while Salah and Firmino featured up front with Coutinho.
The pressure is slowly beginning to mount on Jurgen Klopp, which is ridiculous in my view. But, that is the nature of the media-driven machine that is elite-level football in this day and age. My hope is that the opinions which matter – FSG – will continue to back Klopp. This Liverpool team is going to click back into gear very soon. Whether today is that day remains to be seen.
Leicester City lineup – Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan(c), Maguire, Chilwell; Mahrez, Ndidi, King, Albrighton; Okazaki, Vardy
Subs: Hamer, Iborra, Slimani, Iheanacho, Amartey, Fuchs, Gray
Liverpool lineup – Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson(c), Can, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Coutinho
Subs: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Solanke, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner, Sturridge, Klavan
Jamie Vardy, unsurprisingly, had the first clear chance of the game after five minutes. He broke down the left and cut into the box at speed before getting his right-footed shot away which was saved by Mignolet.
Liverpool’s first attempt came courtesy of Emre Can. The big German midfielder’s long-range daisy-cutter hit the post after beating Kasper Schmeichel. The rebound fell to Salah at speed and his effort went well wide. It was a poor miss by the Egyptian attacker.
Two minutes later and Liverpool were ahead. Coutinho had the ball wide on the left. He whipped in an inch-perfect cross to Salah at the back post and he finished well with his head. 1-0 Liverpool!
Vardy and Okazaki combined to pressurise Mignolet into an error just outside his box minutes later. Okazaki’s shot was diverted wide by Mignolet’s foot.
In the 22nd minute, Alberto Moreno cut into the centre from the left. He was fouled outside the box. Coutinho stepped up and buried the free-kick from 25 yards. It was a great strike leaving Schmeichel helpless. 2-0 Liverpool!
Later in the first-half, Okazaki had a goal disallowed for offside, when it could have been interpreted that Henderson had actually played him onside.
Firmino dragged a low shot wide of Leicester’s goal in the 43rd minute after being set up by Emre Can. Coutinho also nearly got on the end of Firmino’s shot as he slid in at the far post.
In first-half injury-time, Joel Matip received a yellow card for his foul on Vardy just outside the Liverpool box. Vardy seemed to play the referee very cleverly here as he made sure to make the contact between Matip’s foot and his, then following that up with a perfect tumble.
The pressure that followed after this led to a great Mignolet save, but Leicester scored from the resulting corner. Mignolet appeared to be held by Okazaki but Anthony Taylor missed it. Maguire turned the ball goalwards from the back post and Okazaki was there again to put the ball over the line, from an offside position. The goal stood. 2-1.
Half Time: Leicester City 1 – 2 Liverpool
The early stages of the second half were scrappier as both teams began to fight for every inch of possession. It was good to see Liverpool having to get down and dirty as it is the weaker side of their game these days.
Lovren received a yellow card shortly after the break so along with Matip, he now had to take care for the rest of the game.
Sturridge came on in the 65th minute for Firmino.
Two minutes later, Albrighton did some great work before playing Vardy in with a reverse ball on the left pass. Just when it looked like Vardy was about to equalise Joel Matip got his body in the way of his shot.
That was a priceless block as the Reds then went up the other end and scored. Sturridge broke before playing a great ball to Henderson, who was in space. Henderson gave Schmeichel the eyes as if he would be returning the favour to Sturridge but instead, he buried the finish between the goalkeeper and defender’s desperate attempts to intervene. 3-1 Liverpool!
Of course, that would not be the end of the drama. Within 90 seconds, Leicester had pulled a goal back. Gray took a shot from the right which was parried away by Mignolet. However, it fell straight onto the head of Jamie Vardy. 3-2.
Three minutes later and Vardy had a golden chance to equalise. Mignolet was adjudged to have fouled the England striker as they met near the edge of the box. Mignolet felt he got the ball first but his claims fell on deaf ears.
Vardy went for power, straight down the middle but Mignolet was equal to it. The Belgian stopper continues with his impressive penalty-saving record.
Milner then entered the game instead of Emre Can while Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Coutinho in the 79th minute as the final substitute.
Liverpool had the only real chances after Vardy’s penalty miss. Sturridge always appeared to be dangerous and came close on one occasion, in particular, shooting just over the bar after some great footwork outside the box.
That was how it ended. A great win for Liverpool in the circumstances. The threatening rot has been stopped.
Final Score: Leicester City 2 – 3 Liverpool