On Monday evening, Liverpool booked their seventh consecutive Premier League win by beating Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, courtesy of a Curtis Jones brace (33′, 36′) and a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick blast (71′).
To be fair to Leicester, the home side looked pretty much on even ground with the 19-time English champions during the opening 30 minutes, threatening Alisson Becker’s goal quite seriously a few times. Most notably club legend Jamie Vardy was put through by Harvey Barnes in the 12th minute, but his shot from a tight angle couldn’t really trouble a goalkeeper like Brazil’s No. 1 in the Liverpool goal.
However, such moments were islands in a sea of Liverpool controlling the ball in the opposition half, even if the visitors did struggle for a while to create something concrete. There was always a high number of blue shirts in and around the Leicester box, forming a barrier difficult to break through.
Leicester would, however, occasionally move forward to defend higher up and try and prevent Liverpool from playing out from the back, and that turned to their undoing in the 33rd minute as Alisson whipped a long ball forward, caught by Luis Diaz who combined with Jordan Henderson. The Reds captain sent it on to Mohamed Salah on the right, and Egyptian produced a perfectly weighed cross to the far post, having spotted Jones’s run. Ricardo Pereira failed to track that run, and the young Liverpool midfielder looked very confident as he tucked the ball safely into the net from close range.
Only three minutes later, Salah set Jones up again, a second assist and a second goal for the two players, respectively, this time preceded by Cody Gakpo cleverly turning into space and finding Salah on the right. A nicely worked team goal, capped off by a brilliant finish.
Following a lengthy VAR check, Jones could’ve completed a hat-trick of goals and Salah a hat-trick of assists, had not Gakpo got to it first and had his shot saved by Leicester’s Daniel Iversen. It should be said here that it was an excellent save from the Leicester ‘keeper.
In fact, Liverpool looked even more dangerous than before in the period that followed, and the home side defence appeared very unstable at certain moments.
Liverpool’s domination continued into the second half and until Leicester threatened in the 52nd minute with a fine shot from Barnes (saved by Alisson), Dean Smith’s team looked already beaten. And in the 71st minute, their destruction was complete after Liverpool were awarded a free-kick just over 20 yards away from Iversen’s goal. It has been seen before – Salah just rolled the ball to create a better angle and Alexander-Arnold let it fly, hitting the far top corner.
During the final 20 minutes, Liverpool had two more chances to score, but first referee Craig Pawson gave an attacking foul against Gakpo and substitute Diogo Jota just as the Portugal international was about to score, and then Salah wasted a one-on-one situation with Iversen by shooting inexplicably wide of the target.
Asked for his views on the match in his subsequent interview, Smith said his team were beaten by two “marginal onside” goals and a free-kick that “shouldn’t have been”.
Putting this theory through the match numbers, the only aspect of the game where Leicester were a match for Liverpool was the number of corners taken. Liverpool had the ball at 2/3 of the game and took a total of 16 shots towards Iversen’s goal, compared to Leicester’s four.
Leicester’s four all went on target, but only the one hit by Barnes in the 52nd minute forced Alisson into making a real effort to keep his sheet clean. Liverpool took five on target, three of which hit the back of the net. Further more, the visitors wasted several very good chances to make their victory even more convincing.
To sum it up, it’s very clear the Foxes were beaten by more than Smith cares to admit, far more than “marginal offside” goals and a free-kick.
The Leicester boss also said he understood the anger of the fans, expressed very clearly through boos and whistles from the stands both at halftime and at the end of the game.
“We’re all supporters in here,” said Smith as the Foxes recorded their 11th defeat in the last 15 matches in all competitions, drawing three and winning just one. “We all support football clubs, and you want to see your football club winning.”
As the moment, the only thing that Leicester look like winning at the end of the season is a place in the Championship next term, sitting second from the bottom with 30 points from 36 league games. Only Southampton, who’ve already been relegated, are below. Leeds in 18th place have 31, and Everton in 17th have 32. Nottingham Forest, 16th with 34, will be feeling confident about their chances of survival right now, though it’s far from guaranteed.
A game away to Newcastle and one at home against West Ham is all that remains for the Foxes to try and save themselves.
Leeds play at home against West Ham first and then away to Tottenham Hotspur.
Everton go to Wolverhampton and play host to Bournemouth.
It seems the golden era of Leicester City, which started with a bang and a flash as they won the Premier League title in 2015/16, and had another very bright moment with the 2020/21 FA Cup triumph followed by the Community Shield, has run its last course.
Meanwhile, Liverpool appeared to be near the end of an era too for a while this season. There were even calls for Jurgen Klopp’s place in the Anfield dugout to be questioned. But the brilliant German has managed to raise his team above the smoke and the hysteria once more, and on a current seven-win run, Liverpool’s critics have fallen silent. Their supporters will only be regretting that it didn’t happen sooner in the season.
As it is, the team that’s gone on such a fabulous string of results, that finished second by a single point in the Premier League and narrowly lost the Champions League final last season, is now still likely to miss out on UEFA’s elite competition in 2023/24. Sitting fifth, Liverpool trail fourth-place Manchester United and third-place Newcastle by one point, and both those rivals have a game in hand on them.
Liverpool will face Aston Villa at home and Southampton away before the end.
Manchester United play Bournemouth away, Chelsea at home and Fulham at home.
Newcastle play Brighton at home, Leicester at home and Chelsea away.
The situation is obviously out of Liverpool’s hands, even if they win both their games. It’ll come down to whether the expensive, under-performing Chelsea can achieve some stability in the final weeks of the season, whether Brighton can repeat their Emirates performance at St. James’ Park, whether Bournemouth can pull off another huge surprise, and whether Leicester can snap out if this stupor before they’re relegated. But if either Aston Villa or Southampton manage to get anything from their matches against Liverpool, it’ll all be over.
The Bobby Firmino song
Roberto Firmino is, of course, set to leave Liverpool this summer after eight glorious years at the club. The charismatic Brazilian, known as the prototype of a “Klopp player”, known for his immense team spirit and selflessness on the pitch, has become an idol of the Kop at Anfield, and the traveling supporters at the King Power sure knew how to show their appreciation for everything he’s done for the club.
Many agree that without Firmino, there would’ve been no Mo Salah or Sadio Mane, at least not at the heights the iconic pair have reached with him playing through the middle.
The verses of “Si Senor”, the song Liverpool fans always let blast in honor of Firmino, echoed
around Leicester’s stadium for over 20 minutes of the second half in total, interrupted only to celebrate Alexander-Arnold’s stunner and to honor Diogo Jota when he came on. It also rang around the emptying stadium after the final whistle, and that time, Firmino himself, unable to play in this match through injury, approached the away stand and gestured to the crowd in
show of gratitude and love.
It’ll surely be a very emotional moment for the 31-year-old when Aston Villa come to Merseyside on Saturday – his last game at Anfield. It’ll be a moment for the historic venue to say goodbye to another Liverpool legend, a winner of the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup (in which he scored the decisive goal in the final), the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, and the Community Shield.
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