Leicester City 0 Liverpool 4 – 26 December 2019
Report by Tish Krokosz
This Boxing Day clash between the two top teams in the Premier League had been labelled as the match of the season. It had been criticised by Klopp for its timing in terms of player fatigue in the middle of a cramped schedule of games and by fans for the difficulty in getting to the game on a day when public transport was at a minimum. Yet the attendance was the second highest at the King Power.
It was preceded outside the stadium by free beer and water for the home fans and a spectacular, fifteen minute pyrotechnic display inside the ground. Unfortunately, this was as exciting as it would get for the home fans. Liverpool, who had won the world club championship only five days previously came with the attitude of champions and were intent on showing their prowess. They did this in buckets.
City were nervous from the start. They were intimidated by an opposition that was brimming with confidence and which was ready to push forward from the word go. Our defence, and in particular, Schmeichel, were making uncharacteristic mistakes and allowed Liverpool to dictate the game for the first quarter of an hour. The visitors could have been 2-0 up in this time.
Once City calmed down, they managed to pull themselves up to a decent standard for the next fifteen minutes. At which point, following a corner, which Liverpool should not have been allowed as Robertson had pulled Pereira back as he was attempting to stop the ball from going off, Trent Alexander-Arnold had the opportunity to put in a perfect cross to the back post. Three Liverpool players were queuing up to head it in and it was Firmino who out-jumped Chilwell and put a powerful header past Schmeichel.
Soon after, Mané was put through down the middle and the crowd was expecting the lead to double, but Schmeichel made one of his point blank saves and at half-time there was still only a one goal deficit for City to plug. Yet, with no shots on target in the first half it seemed a tall order for them to manage this.
Indeed, the second half started much as the first one did with City showing their nerves – or was it that Klopp had told his side to seal the game promptly? The Liverpool attack was relentless and it was surprising that by the time Albrighton came on for Barnes in the 58th minute that more goals had not been scored. This change on the right wing did have a positive effect for a short time and the home crowd appreciated the more aggressive approach that was being shown on that side of the field. Albrighton was linking up well with Pereira and there was a glimmer of hope that the game could be turned around with Tielemans and Praet having shots at goal (but not on target).
Klopp recognised that he needed to change personnel on that side and brought on Milner and Origi for Keita and Salah. Almost immediately, the visitors doubled their lead. From a corner, they won a penalty after Söyüncü handled the ball and Milner made no mistake from the spot. This seemed to dishearten City and it certainly fired up the Merseysiders.
Just two minutes later, Alexander-Arnold, who had acres of space down the right side of the field all evening, put it a low cross to an unmarked Firmino and he thumped it into the net.
Rodgers recognised that Liverpool were tearing City apart in midfield and brought on Choudhury in place of Maddison to help Ndidi and stiffen the defensive part of midfield. Yet this was not enough to stop another breakaway by them and as the ball was passed to Alexander-Arnold on the edge of the penalty area he drilled a shot through the legs of Chilwell and past the despairing dive of Schmeichel into the left corner of the net.
This brought back memories of that awful 6-1 defeat by Spurs in 2017 but Liverpool were content to sit on this 4-0 lead and toyed with City in the last ten minutes keeping possession of the ball for as long as possible.
It was a shame that Liverpool came on an evening when most of the City players were half asleep and not able to produce the type of football that was evident only four weeks ago. The home fans were in good voice and were hoping to see our team inflict the first league defeat of the season on the leaders. Instead, they saw an away team give a master class of how to control a game, wear down the opposition by accurate passing and a resolve to win the ball on every occasion. They were the best team by a long way to visit the King Power this season and I cannot see how they cannot win the title now. Thank goodness we do not have to play them again.
As for City, it was disappointing that there was no shot on target all evening and it is up to Brendan Rodgers to rebuild the confidence in a team that can play vastly better than on this night. The team spirit needs to be notched up several gears in time for an away visit to West Ham who, themselves, are having a torrid time. It would be good to end the year on a high note.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell, Ndidi, Praet (Perez 72), Tielemans, Maddison (Choudhury 75), Barnes (Albrighton 57), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Justin, Gray.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson, Keita (Milner 70), Henderson (Lallana 82), Wijnaldum, Salah (Origi 70), Firmino, Mané. Subs not used: Adrian, Shaqiri, Jones, Williams
Referee: M. Oliver Attendance: 32,211
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