Leicester City 1-0 Liverpool: Three talking points as Foxes earn unlikely victory over title-hunting
Liverpool’s hopes of winning the Premier League title this season took a hit on Tuesday evening, as Leicester City managed to grab all three points against them at the King Power Stadium, courtesy of a solitary strike by Ademola Lookman.
Deserved defeat for Liverpool
The result of this match will have come as great shock to many, though it’s not too hard to explain what happened. The first thing to say is that most Liverpool players produced surprisingly poor individual performances. Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip in the heart of the defence, along with Kostas Tsimikas who took up the place of suspended Andy Robertson on their left, put in a decent effort. The rest of the team, to put it simply, looked like they hadn’t had any breakfast that morning.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, usually the provider of numerous deadly crosses, a reliable option to play intricate combinations with Mohamed Salah on the right flank, fell short of his usual quality on the ball time and again, and he was taken out of position for Leicester’s goal far too easily. Fabinho’s protection of the back four was leaky to say the least, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordan Henderson couldn’t impose the necessary control over the proceedings, lacking composure, and more often than not, picking the wrong option with the ball.
Mane tried hard, but the ball seemed to be refusing to do his bidding point-blank. Salah’s penalty miss aside, the Senegalese wasted the best chance Liverpool had in the match, four minutes before they conceded. Diogo Jota fed him a lovely pass as he made an inward run and escaped his marker, breaking out one-on-one with the onrushing Schmeichel. He poked his shot over the Leicester ‘keeper, but over the bar as well.
Still, the defining moment of the match came obviously in the 14th minute, when Wilfred Ndidi’s late challenge clipped Salah on the ankle inside the box, the Egyptian went down and referee Michael Oliver blew his whistle. Salah is usually ruthless from the spot, but this time it was a surprisingly poor shot which Kasper Schmeichel read with ease and stopped, before Salah headed the rebound into the crossbar.
From that point on, Salah looked bereft of will to do something significant in this match, and it was like watching an average player who had taken the outward appearance of one of the best in the world, wearing Liverpool’s No.11 shirt. The 29-year-old did have one more good chance to score in the 32nd minute, after a clever pass from Henderson finally broke through Leicester’s defence, but Schmeichel shortened the angle well and made another fine save.
Diogo Jota found himself in several situations from which he usually makes no mistake, but just like with Mane and Salah, it wasn’t his day.
In short, manager Jurgen Klopp set his team up the right way; the facts that they had 64% of possession, took 21 shots (Leicester 6) and earned 12 corners (Leicester 1) proves that there was nothing wrong with the system devised. It was, this time all about the execution, which was, to Liverpool supporters’ dismay, at a level appalling for their usual standards.
Leicester’s witty resilience wins the day
Yes, Leicester were rather lucky on a number of occasions in this match, but they deserved their luck. Liverpool knocked them out of the Carabao Cup last week, and while the Merseysiders saw their match against Leeds United on Sunday postponed (at a request from Leeds, it should be said, not Liverpool), Leicester played a particularly difficult match at the Etihad which they lost 6-3 to defending champions Manchester City. And then they were forced to play this one, just over 48 hours later.
The Foxes were without designated centre-backs. Rodgers had to utilize midfielders Daniel Amartey and Ndidi in the heart of defence, flanked by Timothy Castagne and 20-year-old Luke Thomas. But it seems the changes the former Liverpool boss made during the game made all the difference.
In the 56th minute, Rodgers withdrew Hamzah Choudhury and Kelechi Iheanacho to be replaced by Youri Tielemans and Lookman, respectively, and it proved a stroke of brilliance. Tielemans provided Leicester’s midfield with plenty of creativity compared to Choudhury, and the fresh legs of Lookman, coupled with some shrewd tactical advice born from observation of the match, were crucial for the only goal of the match.
The substitute winger took up the position on the left wing and received the ball just as minute 58 expired. He went a few paces towards the middle of the pitch, pulling Alexander-Arnold with him. Henderson failed to cover the hole left gaping in that way and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall exploited it to perfection, while Lookman used his pace to escape Alexander-Arnold. When Dewsbury-Hall returned the ball to him, Lookman was running into the box at full speed, and he fired into the near bottom corner before Van Dijk or Matip could block him.
Nine minutes later, Rodgers withdrew Maddison and sent on Marc Albrighton, whose experience was of great help as the Foxes sought to bring the tempo down and close the match down.
It was a big win for Leicester, in the face of adversity, in close time proximity to two difficult matches. Rodgers will be proud of the result they got against his former club, but even more so about the three points they earned.
But while their heroes were out there, fighting a great battle with everything they had, a large number of the Leicester supporters in the stands of the King Power Stadium sang songs that should have no place at a sporting event, or anywhere else for that matter.
Created to taunt the people of Liverpool, the repulsive “Feed the Scousers” chant that rang around the venue throughout the match on Tuesday refers to the fact that the North-West of England endured some extremely difficult times back in the 1980s, when many of its inhabitants were left without jobs as the government conducted what they called a ‘managed decline’ of the area.
Today, there is a number of cities across England with poorer average living standards than Liverpool, but regardless of anything, poverty is not something to be laughed at. Racism in the Premier League stadiums (and other venues across the globe) has been condemned and is rightly punishable by law in many countries, but it should be said that mocking poverty shows a very similar mindset – a sense of entitlement from the perpetrators, which breeds discrimination.
Perhaps it’s time for the Premier League to look into the issue and establish regulations against this most unwelcome occurrence, or at least for the clubs to undertake projects aiming to educate supporters and discourage them from acting in such a nauseating way. There are things that simply cannot be classified as ‘football banter’. They have nothing to do with football at all.