Liverpool comprehensively defeated Leicester City 3-0 at Anfield to move level with Tottenham at the top of the table.
A Jonny Evans own goal, and headers from Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino sealed the victory for the Reds in an imperious performance of attacking football. Were it not for the numerous saves of Kasper Schmeichel in the visitors’ goal and two goal-bound shots being cleared off the line, the Champions would have won by a more handsome margin.
The pre-match talk centred on Liverpool’s injuries, with the Reds missing six players who would normally start games from their team, but you would have never known it from the opening few minutes.
Sharp with their passing and playing with an intensity, the hosts went about their business in a quick fashion. The midfield — where Georginio Wijnaldum, Naby Keita and Curtis Jones all started — were dominant over their counterparts and when Keita found Jones in the box with a pass, the youngster forced Schmeichel into his first save. The better option would have been to square the ball to Mane, which surely would have resulted in the opener, but the move nonetheless showed the Reds’ potent threat.
Schmeichel was called into action once in a ferocious opening quarter for the Reds. The Dane saved a Jota shot after the Portuguese international was deftly found by neat Firmino link-up play. Leicester breathed another sigh of relief but their respite wasn’t to last much longer.
An in-swinging corner from James Milner, who had started so brilliantly at right-full back, was met by the head of Evans and the Northern Ireland defender header into his own goal. It was fortuitous for Liverpool, but the lead was more than merited.
Leicester bore their teeth for the first time when Jamie Vardy’s cutback was shanked wide by Harvey Barnes but normal service was soon resumed and the Reds got back into their stride and notched their second goal.
Fielding a cross field pass from the impressive Jones, Andrew Robertson composed himself and delivered a sumptuous, arching cross for J0ta to head past Schmeichel. The Portuguese’s run — which saw him move undetected into the box — and header were impressive, but the cross from the Scotland captain was sublime and Liverpool held their 2-0 lead going into half time.
The second half began in a similar fashion, with Liverpool pouring forward in search of goals. Schmeichel denied Mane with a strong save and Christian Fuchs cleared the ball — which was destined for the net — off his own line and the Foxes nervously scrambled clear, only after Firmino hit the post with a header.
Keita went off with a muscular injury and Neco Williams replaced him, with Milner moving to midfield instead of the Guinean. This alteration didn’t stifle the Reds flow, though, and they hit the post and subsequently had another effort cleared off the line when Firmino skipped his way through the heart of the visitor’s defence and smashed a low shot off the upright. Mane pounced on the rebound and forced the ball towards the goal, but it was cleared off the line. A replay showed the ball was a fraction of an inch from crossing the line.
Switching to a 442 formation and ceding the ball to Brendan Rodgers team, Liverpool rarely looked threatened and were threatening playing on the counter-attack, with Jones particularly enterprising in carrying the ball forward and initiating attacks.
The icing was put on the cake when Firmino — whose all-round performance was excellent, in the manner of his old self — powerfully directed a Milner corner past Schmeichel for the third goal in a brilliant team performance.
Shorn of so many of their first-choice players, Liverpool showed the strength of their squad.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Milner, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Keita, Jones; Jota, Firmino, Mané.
Replacements: Williams for Keita, Minamino for Mane, Origi for Jota.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.