Leicester City 2
By Umarah Naz
Just shy of a month after demolishing Arsenal 4-0 at Anfield, Liverpool finally found another win on Sunday when they beat Leicester 3-2 at the King Power stadium in a pulsating affair.
Four days after being knocked out of the League Cup by Craig Shakespeare’s men, this win served as sweet revenge for a Liverpool side struggling for form and confidence. This being said, they didn’t make it easy for themselves as is often the case.
In a game with with an array of talking points, Liverpool managed to hold on for a precious three points and stopped the rot of winless results.
Mohammed Salah took his goal tally to six in nine for Liverpool when he put the Reds ahead in the fifteenth minute with a header from a Coutinho cross. The angle appeared tight but the Egyptian made it look easy. The goal came just after he missed a gilt-edged chance presented to him when Can’s long range shot thundered off the post into his path, but his rebound went wide.
The provider became the finisher after Moreno was fouled twenty-five yards from goal. Coutinho, who had been trying to work his way back into Liverpool’s fans’ hearts, stepped up to banish the memories of the previous six weeks with a free-kick etched in perfection. Schmeichel’s outstretched efforts were in vain as Liverpool doubled their lead and Coutinho relieved some of that weight from his shoulders.
They say a 2-0 lead is often a dangerous one; lulling the leaders into a false sense of security, but that’s nonsense when it comes to Liverpool. Anyone even remotely related to the club knows that any sort of lead, no matter how much, still has fans wildly palpitating till the full-time whistle blows.
On forty minutes, Leicester had an Okazaki goal ruled offside much to the away side’s relief. At the other end, Firmino’s shot flew across the face of goal with Coutinho inches away from nudging it in. It looked like the Reds may go into the break with their clean sheet intact but Jamie Vardy had other ideas.
It would have been easier to take had it been for scoring, but the forward elicited a free-kick on the edge of the box. Replays showed it to be a flagrant dive and it will be interesting to see if the FA take any kind of retrospective action.
Suffice to say, it was conveniently glossed over in the British media. One can only wonder if it would have been the same had Salah or Firmino done the same at the other end.
The free-kick itself didn’t bring Leicester’s goal as Mignolet made a superb save from Vardy’s header, but the resultant corner saw Mignolet manhandled off the ball by Okazaki who put the loose ball into the net. No foul was given and Leicester were back in it, deep into first-half injury time.
The second-half proved to be even more eventful than the first if that was at all possible. McGuire held Lovren and his shirt for what seemed like an eternity impeding the centre-back from getting a clear header form a corner kick. The Croatian’s passionate lamenting saw him booked by Anthony Taylor for dissent.
In a mad turn of events, Klopp made a substitution with almost a full thirty minutes remaining as Sturridge came on for Firmino on sixty-one minutes. Whether that was with Tuesday’s game against Spartak Moscow in mind, or the Brazilian’s lacklustre performance, is up for debate.
Just moments after Joel Matip had made a spectacular block from a Vardy shot, Liverpool saw the best of captain, Jordan Henderson. In a top class second-half display, it was only fitting that he scored the goal that won the game. As he won the ball back in his own half to start a counter attack, Henderson ran the length of the pitch to finish the job with a composed strike as Coutinho and Sturridge supplied the goods.
But Vardy wasn’t quite finished with his box of tricks as, a minute later, he scored Leicester’s second when Mignolet could only push a save from Demari Gray into his path.
The trouble with Liverpool is that no team ever feels that they are out of the game when playing against them. There is eternal hope even in the dying seconds. It’s a sad reflection on Klopp’s team that the opposition feel they can achieve anything even when the going gets tough.
This was all apparent in the seventy-second minute when Mignolet conceded a penalty by hacking Jamie Vardy down in the box. A slight touch on the ball was the Belgian’s argument but it was minimal compared to the carnage of the follow through. His record from penalty saves is renowned in the Premier League ever since his debut against Stoke in 2013 in which he saved a late one to give Liverpool all three points.
He had obviously done his homework on Vardy’s spot kicks as he stood his ground in the middle of the goal and saved it. I’m sure if you asked any football fans on whether they’d rather concede a corner or a penalty they’d opt for the former every time. Next time you meet a Liverpool fan, ask them the same question.
The last fifteen minutes were touch and go for Klopp watching on the sidelines. Sturridge tried his best to minimise Klopp’s ever increasing grey hair count as he impressed with his thirty minutes coming close a few times. This coming days after Klopp highlighted his importance in the team and how he’d never thought of selling him over the summer, despite most Liverpool fans thinking he’d be the first one out.
The tailor-made fitness plan that Klopp alluded to also appears to be paying off with Sturridge enjoying an injury-free spell. Apart from the strikers undoubted eye for a finish, he has equally stunning passing vision. A huge asset to have waiting on the bench. And, after having been severely criticised for his “attitude” issues, he looks to be dealing with not being Klopp’s first choice with utter class and humility.
A free kick in the dying minutes of injury time, left Klopp with a sarcastic smile on his face almost accepting the inevitable, however, his boys managed to see the game out in the end. Coutinho claiming many people’s man of the match with Henderson not too far behind.
What is certain is that both players needed these performances to put many critics to bed. Coutinho with his “extra-curricular” activities and Henderson with his sometimes below par displays on the pitch.
Both answered some questions on Saturday evening but need to show consistency in the crucial upcoming months for Liverpool. This match was certainly a great way to kick start that.