Leicester City 2
By Umarah Naz
Two phrases in Jurgen Klopp’s post match interview summed up Liverpool’s performance against Leicester in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night.
“I’m sick of (conceding) goals like this to be honest” and “we are not clinical enough”.
In fairness, he could’ve have been describing any one of a number of games, especially the previous few.
Liverpool opened their League Cup campaign against a weakened Leicester side at the King Power stadium.
There was no Jamie Vardy to terrorise the defence as he has done in the last few meetings. Instead he watched in the stands and beamed from ear to ear whilst applauding Islam Slimani’s seventy-eighth minute goal that doubled the homes side’s lead, and effectively ended Klopp’s cup run before it had really begun.
Ward, Flanagan, Gomez, Robertson, Grujic, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke and Coutinho all started. And the changes looked to be paying off as Liverpool dominated the first-half (almost three quarters possession) with chances aplenty.
But all went begging either by blocked shots, weak finishing or poor decision making. Craig Shakespeare’s me were well and truly out of their depth and it seemed that a goal wasn’t too far away for the visitors.
What is it they say? Just a matter of time?
The majority of Liverpool’s success came via Robertson and Coutinho with the former placing some lovely crosses into the box only or see them wasted. The Brazilian looked to put his torrid start to the season (off the pitch) behind him and rekindle his love affair with the fans.
At times, he seemed reluctant to play his natural game and pass the ball on rather than take shots on himself. But that could easily be put down to a lack of confidence given the situation. Despite this he was trying his best to create and looked the most likely outlet for a goal.
Solanke took up some fine positions in the box and came close to putting Liverpool ahead. The Ox, however, still looked rusty and, as Klopp said before the game, he needs time to adapt to the style of play. The first-half ended with no goals and many spurned chances.
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The second-half began with the substitution of Coutinho for Ben Woodburn. One can only think Klopp had Saturday’s repeat clash with Leicester in the PL in mind. But Coutinho’s departure left the away side less effective in their build-up play and gave the home side some hope.
Add to that the introduction of Shinji Okazaki in the fifty-third minute and the game turned in favour of Leicester quickly.
Twelve minutes later, the substitute pounced on another ball that the Liverpool defence failed to deal with and struck home. A handy deflection off Robertson made sure Leicester went ahead.
And twelve minutes from time, Slimani ended any hopes of a comeback. Yet the Reds still attempted but in vain.
Klopp was left to contemplate another match where failing to capitalise cost him dearly, as did poor defending.
But it’s all good. No one cares about the Mickey Mouse cup, do they? It’s one less competition to deal with. Right? Premier League and Champions League is more important. No? Maybe, yes and yes.
But when you consider we haven’t won a trophy for five years now (the last of which was ironically the Mickey Mouse cup), it’s not like being facetious about it is an option.
The truth is we would have loved to see Henderson lifting this trophy come February. As much as we’d have loved it in 2016 when City beat us on penalties to snatch it.
We really can’t afford to be picky when it comes to silverware, so being dumped out at the first hurdle is hard to take.
As it is, we’re fighting on three fronts now and the turnaround is quick. Leicester await on Saturday night and by then we won’t have won a game for twenty-eight days. Klopp needs to lift the team. And fast.
If it isn’t a slump now, it will be if three points aren’t taken back to Merseyside on Saturday.