Leicester City 3-1 Liverpool
Report by Chris Grifin
Seven sublime minutes starting in the 78th minute saw City score three goals and take the points after falling a goal behind. Liverpool had enjoyed most possession and often pressed high into City’s defensive third but the City defence remained resolute save for a Salah goal in the 67th minute. Fortunately, City’s determination did not shrink and they hit back with goals from Maddison, Vardy and a superb finish by Barnes.
On an icily cold afternoon Amartey came in at right back for the sadly injured Justin. Good luck for the recovery James. Ricardo switched to left back. Albrighton came in to play right-side midfield. Vardy returned up front.
Liverpool dominated the opening fifteen minutes. Pressing high up the pitch, passing the ball rapidly and providing plenty of movement into gaps it seemed that the City defence would have its work cut out to stop the visitors scoring. But City stepped up to the plate and put in a superb defensive performance. Soyuncu was prominent, frequently heading away crosses from open and set plays. He was well backed up by Ndidi and Amartey. For the first game this season City looked unruffled defending corners.
Mane threatened in pursuit of one through pass but Soyuncu dealt calmy and effectively with the situation. Henderson swept a good ball out to Salah but he shot wide under Ricardo pressure. Amartey had to concede a corner then Soyuncu followed suit. The ball fell to Salah but he shot wide.
At the other end Barnes put Vardy through. The striker lobbed Alisson from a tight angle but the ball landed on the roof of the net. Barnes had a fleeting chance to shoot in the Liverpool box but delayed and Liverpool countered working the ball to Salah whose fast cross was cleared by Amartey. Then Ricardo conceded a corner with Salah bearing down on goal. Ndidi headed the corner clear to Maddison who was fouled by Jones earning the Liverpool man a yellow card. Then another sweeping move led to Schmeichel blocking Firmino’s effort. Schmeichel then made an incredible one-handed save from a close range Firmino effort. Offside was given for earlier in the move but that did not diminish the excellence of Kasper’s save.
A rare City attack saw Maddison earn a corner. Ndidi met the resultant cross but headed wide. City were having little possession and struggling to hang onto the possession they did have. But gradually they secured a foothold with a Vardy header forcing an Alisson save then Vardy crashed a shot against the bar having been put through by a neat Maddison flick.
On the brink of half time Evans brought down Mane on the edge of the City area and was yellow carded. He also seemed to have hurt himself in the challenge. Trent-Arnold’s effort was blocked by a strong city wall. Then Vardy bore down on goal again only to be thwarted by an excellent Alisson save.
Half time arrived, no goals and City still very much in the game despite having to do a lot of defensive hard graft.
City were more aggressive at the start of the second half. They began to make use of longer passes to bypass the Liverpool press and get behind the high line of Liverpool’s defence. Barnes was fouled outside the Liverpool area but Maddison’s free kick ran through tamely to Alisson. Then Robertson brought down Maddison in a similar spot but again Alisson reached the ball at the feet of the on-rushing Tielemans. Liverpool countered but Robertson’s shot missed the target. City had good fortune when a Trent -Arnold freekick just outside the City area deflected onto the crossbar via Vardy’s head.
As the half continued it seemed that City’s earlier aggression was waning. Players were struggling to hold onto the ball with passing that was too slow and inviting pressure. Trent-Arnold played a good through pass following one example of City losing possession in midfield but the defence coped well with the resulting corner.
It was not a surprise when Liverpool scored in the 67th minute through a neat left foot shot from Salah into the far corner following good work by Trent-Arnold and Firmino.
This triggered a City response with Barnes winning a free kick from Liverpool debutant Kabak who was promptly given a yellow card. But again, Maddison’s free kick went too easily to Alisson. Perez came on for Albrighton. Ricardo went on a superb run, won a corner but Maddison’s effort was overhit and sailed over Soyuncu at the far post.
City pressed for a goal. In the 78th minute Barnes surged towards the penalty area and was brought down by Thiago. Emphatically referee Taylor awarded a penalty but VAR decided the foul took place outside the area. Maddison’s low free kick evaded everyone and nestled in the Liverpool net. Confusion returned: the linesman had flagged Amartey offside but VAR decided that Firmino was playing him onside so the goal stood.
City’s hard work had helped them both stay in the game and then level it. But not even the most optimistic City fan would have predicted what happened in the 81st minute. On the halfway line near the touchline Tielemans swung a long pass leftwards towards Barnes. Before it reached him Alisson came yards out of his area to clear but collided with centre back Kabak who was running back to his own goal. Alisson’s attempted clearance kindly sent the ball to Vardy lurking just outside the D. The striker coolly dribbled the ball into the welcoming and inviting empty goal then gave a fun celebration when he played air guitar on the corner flag.
Lucky goal? Maybe, but let’s credit Vardy with being in the right place at the right time to take advantage. That was Vardy’s 40th goal against the “Big Six”. He really is a star. City kept pressing forward seeking a third. Alisson parried a good shot from Barnes. The ball fell to Vardy whose close-range shot was well hit but Alisson saved again.
City looked the more likely team to score again and sure enough the goal came. In the 85th minute Salah played a careless ball across the centre line. Tielemans intercepted and fed Ndidi who immediately switched the ball forward to the rampaging Barnes in the inside left position. The winger ran hard at the Liverpool defenders, left them standing and calmly picked his spot to curl a right foot shot past Alisson into the far corner: classy finish.
The game was over bar the shouting although Perez went down injured and is hopefully not adding to City’s formidable injury list. Mendy replaced him.
Brendan Rodgers summed up City very well. “The players deserved it. We didn’t sink when we went a goal behind. We stayed calm and the players were brilliant in that period – a real collective team performance.” And he’s right. Every player fulfilled his role: outstanding.
All good – if only the fans could’ve been there.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Amartey; Evans; Soyuncu; Ricardo; Albrighton (Perez then Mendy); Tielemans (Choudhury) ; Ndidi; Barnes; Maddison; Vardy
Liverpool: Alisson; Trent-Arnold; Henderson; Kabak; Robertson; Milner (Thiago); Wijnaldum (Shaqiri); Jones (Oxlade-Chamberlain); Salah; Firmino; Mane.
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