Foxes Tamed by Table Toppers

Leicester City 1 Liverpool 2    

1 September 2018

Report by Tish Krokosz

Liverpool came to the King Power Stadium unbeaten after the first three games of the season, without having let in a goal and included the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. Schmeichel had penned a renewed contract the day before, keeping him with us for five more years. He celebrated this with an excellent save in the fourth minute when faced with a one-on-one situation against Firmino. The follow-up was missed by Salah when faced with an open goal. This match usually brought a lot of goals – surely it would not end up nil-nil this time?

Unfortunately not – seven minutes later, Liverpool pressed down the left wing with Robertson threading the ball past Pereira, whose defensive skills are being questioned too frequently. For a moment, the ball was loose and Morgan seemed to hesitate and lost the opportunity to come forward and clear it. The Liverpool defender took his chance to pass it to Mane with a lucky bounce off Maguire, and the forward took no time to ram the ball into the net with his left foot. Once again, City had started sluggishly, were ragged at the back and too hesitant.

For a while, Puel’s tactics were to send the ball long for Gray to chase, Vardy style, but this proved ineffective as Gomez and Van Dijk were able to clear any high balls and the full backs had control of the wings. However, City gradually had more possession and aggression in midfield and were pushing forward with intent. On 22 minutes, Maguire controlled a clearance from the visitors, passed the ball directly to Ghezzal, who, in turn, took one touch to pass it to Gray. His shot on goal was from an awkward angle and on target, but Alisson, despite being wrong footed, clawed it away to safety.

Once again, Maddison had a good game and showed lots of confidence for such a young player. He seems to be the first choice when taking corners and free kicks. The latter were an opportunity to put pressure on the visitors, who were playing a very high line. However, on more than one occasion, City were penalised for offside from a free kick, Maguire being the main culprit.

Although the Liverpool front three were playing as fluid a game as always, their chances on goal had been limited during the first half. As half-time approached, Salah finally showed some of his skills and cut in from the right side for an excellent shot on goal. Schmeichel was equal to it and made an equally fine save and put the ball out for a corner. This produced another corner from the opposite side after Morgan had cleared the first one. This time, Milner’s accurate kick found Firmino, who had lost his marker, Maddison, and the Liverpool forward headed the ball firmly into the net. It was somewhat unfair that City went in at half- time two goals down when they had been so positive for the last half-hour.

Considering Liverpool’s start to the season, this deficit seemed like a mammoth task to overcome. However, City started the second half positively with Ghezzal being more active. He put in a lovely ball into the box after just two minutes but there was no one in there to finish the move. This is where we missed Vardy. He has an excellent past record against Liverpool and his presence would have been far more effective than Gray’s. The red card Vardy picked up against Wolves (which I still believe was an incorrect decision) was costing us dear this afternoon. City continued to press and in the 51st minute Maddison once more showed his skills by dancing past two Liverpool defenders and creating an opening to allow himself to take a shot on goal. But Gomez had spotted the danger and blocked the goal-bound shot.

The former Norwich player was taking every opportunity to try and reduce the deficit. Two minutes after his blocked shot he pressed forward again and was only stopped by a clumsy challenge by van Dijk, which earned the Liverpool defender a yellow card. The resulting free kick went into the wall and another City chance went begging. The exasperation was even more evident a minute later when, from a short corner, Ghezzal once more whipped in the ball into the box and behind the whole of the red defence. There were at least three blue shirts that may have popped the ball into the net but somehow all managed to miss it and Alisson gathered it safely.

Soon after, Puel decided that the experiment of playing Gray as a centre forward was not working. Iheanacho came on for Albrighton and took up the forward position with Gray dropping back into the vacant slot on the left wing. Two minutes later, this move proved fruitful when the substitute challenged the Liverpool keeper after a bad back pass. Alisson had all the time in the world to clear the ball but decided to try and turn, Cruyff style, with the expectation of playing it out to a red shirt. He did not count on the grit and determination of Iheanacho, who had run a long way to challenge him and win the ball from him. A simple cross into the centre found Ghezzal, who took his time before shooting the ball into the net to give City a well-deserved goal.

Until this point it was hard to tell whether Liverpool were playing safe and trying to hang on to a two goal lead or whether City had been in control more and were proactive in their approach. I would like to think it was the latter as Klopp’s style is not to be negative but to try and score as many goals as possible even if the opposition score almost as many against you. However, despite City trying for an equaliser, the visitors, on this occasion, seemed content with their lead and the rest of the game consisted of substitutions and general game management. This was especially evident with Milner’s experience of slowing down City’s moves even though this cost him a booking. In fact, there was a string of yellow cards in the last ten minutes – it was almost as if the referee, who generally had a good game, felt he had to meet a quota of using the card.

At the beginning of the match, I suppose that City would have feared the attacking prowess of Salah, who won so many accolades last year. The fact that he was substituted by Shaqiri with twenty minutes of the match remaining shows that City had tamed him – or did he just have a bad day at the office? As we left the ground, City supporters felt that they had been robbed of a point. The visiting fans, on the other hand, went back to the north-west knowing that their team was top of the table after a mediocre showing. If City continue this approach to each game, then, surely, we will come away with better results against weaker teams.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Pereira, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Mendy, Ndidi, Ghezzal, Maddison (Amartey 83), Albrighton (Iheanacho 61), Gray (Okazaki 76). Subs not used: Ward, Evans, Iborra, Fuchs.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Matip 89), Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson (Keita 71), Milner, Salah (Shaqiri 71), Firmino, Mane. Subs not used: Mignolet, Moreno, Lallana, Sturridge

Referee: P. Tierney                            Attendance: 32,149

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