Liverpool 3 City 0
Report by Colin Hall
Leicester City’s six-game winning streak was abruptly and brutally terminated in a 3-0 defeat to Premier League champions Liverpool.
Before the game, many Foxes entertained hopes of a first victory at Anfield in over 20 years. Given their side’s impressive form in recent weeks and a lengthy list of star names missing from the home ranks, such optimism looked reasonable.
However, a performance of pace and power from Jurgen Klopp’s team made light of their absentees and demonstrated why the Reds will be so difficult to depose as title-holders.
Brendan Rodgers made two changes from the line-up that started the previous game against Wolves, replacing Dennis Praet and Luke Thomas with Marc Albrighton and Harvey Barnes. The evening’s events would give him cause to reflect on those changes, and perhaps even to recall the cliché about never changing a winning team.
Before the match, both sides joined in a minute’s applause in remembrance of Ray Clemence, an outstanding goalkeeper who featured in many titanic tussles between these sides, the last being in 1981 when City, despite being bottom of the First Division at the time, won 2-1 to end Liverpool’s 3-year unbeaten home record.
By coincidence, this game gave the home side an opportunity to surpass that record for league matches, and their frenetic start illustrated their keenness to seize it. In the first two minutes, Keita saw his drive deflected narrowly wide and the resultant corner saw Mané reach the ball first, only to send it into the side netting.
The next incident of note, though, gave an indication as to why Anfield is such difficult terrain for visiting sides.
A James Maddison through ball in the home penalty area, intended for Barnes, instead found the outstretched hand of home defender Matip. However, both referee Kavanagh and VAR official Marriner felt that the contact was unintentional. Maybe they also felt that City have had more than enough penalties this season, especially on our travels.
In any event, the visitors should have shown enough composure to put this setback behind them but failed to do so. Liverpool took an iron grip on midfield, enabling them to mount wave after wave of attacks down both flanks.
Just as the City defence looked to have withstood the onslaught, the opening goal arrived in bizarre fashion. Jonny Evans, unsighted at a corner, was unable to stop the ball flying off his head and past Kasper Schmeichel into his own net.
The incident bore an eerie resemblance to the Alan Young header that had given Liverpool the lead in the 1981 game, But this would be as far as the similarities would go. These hosts were not intent on sitting on their lead, but eager to extend it at the earliest opportunity.
Jota, who relishes playing against City, looked particularly sharp, and although he saw a strike ruled out for a foul on Schmeichel, managed to find the scoresheet for the fourth successive home game, heading home after Robertson was allowed significant time and space to cross from the right.
City managed just two efforts on goal in the opening half, Barnes screwing wide from inside the area when he should have found the target and Youri Tielemans – a hitherto peripheral figure – seeing a 20-yard drive comfortably saved by Alisson in the home goal.
The visitors were able to secure slightly more territory and possession after the interval, assisted by an injury to Keita which temporarily disrupted the home side’s rhythm. However, chances remained at a premium, although Alisson had to be alert to deny both Barnes and Jamie Vardy following smart work by Maddison with a free-kick.
This window of opportunity did not last very long, though, and neither Praet nor Cengiz Under were able to exert any influence when introduced midway through the half. Only the woodwork, some fine Schmeichel saves and desperate goal-line clearances stopped Liverpool from handing out a real hiding, as the weaknesses of the visiting defence were repeatedly exposed and exploited.
Eventually Firmino, who had previously endured a particularly wasteful evening in from of goal, was able to escape the attentions of Under to head home from a Milner corner and punish a defence whose vulnerabilities at set pieces have remained unaddressed for far too long.
The final whistle came as something of a relief to both the players and the hordes watching on TV. Rodgers has enjoyed some memorable tactical victories this season, but his former stamping-ground, as too often in recent times, saw his charges fail to do themselves justice at either individual or collective level.
Only Schmeichel and James Justin could take pride from their performances here, though others may have learnt some valuable lessons from their experiences.
Fortunately for City, the coming weeks provide a chance to move on very quickly from this defeat.
With a number of the injured contingent due to return soon, we must hope that chance is seized.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Milner (c), Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Jones, Wijnaldum, Keita (N Williams 54); Jota (Origi 89), Firmino, Mané (Minamino 89). Subs not used:Adrian, Tsimikas, Phillips, Clarkson.
Scorers: Evans (og 21, Jota 41, Firmino 86.
City (5-4-1): Schmeichel; Albrighton, Fofana, Evans, Fuchs (Praet 62), Justin, Maddison, Mendy, Tielemans, Barnes (Under 62); Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Thomas, Choudhury, Iheanacho.
Booked: Justin, Mendy.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh, VAR: Andre Marriner
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