Like We’ve Never Been Away – Post Match Analysis : Liverpool 3 Leicester 1

This was one of those rare occasions – which I guess can only happen in early season against superior opposition – when I came away more upbeat than before despite the defeat. Although the weight of pressure eventually told, we were treated to an early goal and half-time lead, and it required a thunderbolt during Storm Agnes with 20 minutes remaining to put us behind for the first time.

We acquitted ourselves terrifically, despite a swathe of changes, and the rapid improvement in our play since the international break has been mightily impressive. Without tempting fate, the match would not have looked out of place as a Premier League game, and at present it is difficult to think of two teams likely to finish above us in the Championship.

Enzo rested some key players for the cup tie. I would not have done so – giving this game everything would not in my view be the difference between promotion or not come May. It also felt harsh on the likes of Winks, KDH and Hermansen to miss out on this showcase game.

However, for me everyone except the disappointing Casedei had a good game. While nobody likes to see long-term injuries, I am sanguine about the impact of losing Doyle. I would much rather have JJ in the team, and was equally delighted to see Harry Souttar for the first time this season. Not only was his aerial presence valuable, he also looked more than comfortable enough on the ball to fit Enzo’s bill.

We also witnessed the long-awaited debut of Connor Coady, and his value was seen throughout, most notably expertly reading play to clear a header off the line.

While not as comfortable with his feet as Mads – often tapping goal kicks to Coady who virtually stood by him – Stolarczyk made no cardinal errors in this dimension, and his handling was solid.

With the construction company developing the Anfield Road stand having gone bust (in what seems surprising due diligence by Liverpool), our fans did not have the usual overhang of the upper tier which allowed me a better view. The weather did not look to have delayed our fans up the M6, and so everyone was in their seats or railed standing to see a spectacular start (as with the league game here at Xmas). Stolarczyk punched a cross clear, and Albrighton (who showed some vintage touches) fed Yunus who played through McAteer for a cool finish on 3 minutes. Few things are more enjoyable than see a young player look at home so quickly in the first team.

The only downside was the adage that we had scored too early, but at least Faes had been kept on the bench to save him the pelters of reminders of his double own goal disaster on this ground. As well as Coady’s clearance, Doak (promising but some way yet from being the supposed heir to Salah) smashed the underside of the bar from Ronnie Rosenthal range. We survived until half time relatively comfortably.

I would have been minded to make a few substitutions at half-time and bring on KDH, Ndidi and Winks. Ricardo and the newly contract-signed Hamza were playing well but were both harshly yellow-carded – a particular kick in the teeth for Ricardo after the time his leg was broken here and the ref virtually offered Klopp the option of substituting the offender in lieu of a red card.

However, by the time Ndidi replaced Casedei the match was level, Gapko turning and finishing early in the second half. We remained in the game without creating much threat. My only criticism is that we maybe prioritised possession (which we retained expertly when we could) over attack. With the wind increasing in the second half, a few long balls may have created a lucky break for us.

As it was, Szoboszlai’s rocket turned the game. This actually gave us a period to try and get back in the game, which we nearly did when Ndidi was played through but was crowded out, before Jota scored a customary goal against us in the dying minutes.  I look forward to our return to Anfield next season!

FOXES: Stolarczyk 7, Ricardo 7, Justin 6, Souttar 7, Coady 7, Choudhury 6, Casedei 4, Yunus 7, McAteer 7, Albrighton 6, Iheanacho 5. Subs: Ndidi 6, Dewsbury-Hall 6, Daka 5, Fatawu 6.