City succumb to Salah double

Liverpool 2 City 1

Report by Colin Hall

Two goals from Liverpool's Mo Salah proved enough to give his side victory over Leicester City at Anfield in both sides' final league game of 2017.

The result, no more than the home side deserved on the balance of play, extends the visitors' winless streak to five games – a disappointing end to a month which had begun so promisingly with three successive victories.

City boss Claude Puel, hitherto unbeaten at Anfield in his managerial career, made four changes to the starting eleven, with Amartey, Fuchs, Iborra and Gray replacing Dragovic, Chilwell, King and Okazaki. His choice of subs was intriguing, with forgotten man Musa and development squad prospect Thomas among those on the bench.

The Foxes pressed hard in the opening minutes, and gained due early reward when Vardy put them ahead following good work from Iborra and Mahrez.

However, that would prove to be City's only shot on target of the entire afternoon. For the remainder of the half, Liverpool mounted an onslaught on the visiting goal, but a combination of wasteful finishing and stoic defending kept them at bay before the break.

Salah blazed two glorious chances wide, Mane had a goal chalked off (correctly) for offside and Schmeichel – notably more assertive and assured than in midweek – was forced into saves from Milner and Firmino.

With the front men unable to retain possession, and in some cases also unwilling to track back, the home side were able to continue their domination in the second half. The leveller finally arrived just seven minutes when Salah finally found the scoring touch which had eluded him earlier in the game.

To their credit, City raised their game in response to this setback, and started to regain a foothold in the match. A series of Fuchs long throws caused problems for the home defence and almost saw the visitors regaining the lead, when Ndidi seized upon a weak clearance, only to see his long-range drive fly inches wide with Reds' keeper Karius stranded.

Puel raised many eyebrows within the visiting contingent when taking off Mahrez and Vardy in the final 20 minutes. No doubt this move was made with an eye on the clash with Huddersfield just two days later, but also perhaps in the hope that replacements Okazaki and Slimani could recreate the partnership that had been so effective in the League Cup tie with these opponents earlier in the season. Unfortunately, neither was able to receive the service required to make a meaningful impact on proceedings.

Meanwhile at the other end Salah gave the home side the lead when taking full advantage of an error by Maguire. Although the City defender has impressed many fans this season with his passion and commitment, there have been times when his impetuousity have cost the side dearly.

On this evidence, it is no surprise to see why England manager Gareth Southgate prefers to deploy Maguire in a three-man central defence. Perhaps it is time for Puel to do likewise at City, since the current partnership with Morgan is clearly not providing the defensive stability that the team needs.

Liverpool saw out the closing minutes in relative comfort and remain on course for a top four finish. As for City, both fans and manager received a painful reminder that this side remains very much a work in progress.

Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Robertson; Milner, Can, Coutinho (Klavan 89), Salah (Wijnaldum 83), Firmino, Mane (Oxlade-Chamberlain 72). Subs not used: Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Lallana, Solanke.

Scorers: Salah (52,76)                 Booked: Robertson, Can, Milner.

 City (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Amartey, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs; Ndidi, Iborra: Mahrez (Okazaki 73), Gray, Albrighton (James 83); Vardy (Slimani 73). Subs not used: Hamer, Dragovic, Musa, Thomas.

Scorer: Vardy (3)                        Booked: Maguire, Ndidi 

Referee: Neil Swarbrick      Attendance: 53226

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation