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Premier League Match Report: Leicester City 0 - 4 Liverpool

Foxes get it all wrong...again

Leicester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Leicester City were well beaten by Liverpool by a score of 4-0 at the King Power evening late Boxing Day evening. A brace by Roberto Firmino, a Trent Alexander-Arnold strike, and a James Milner penalty doomed the Foxes to their second consecutive comprehensive defeat.

Don’t do this.

Manager Brendan Rodgers made only one change to the XI that lost to Manchester City on Saturday, but it was a controversial one: Dennis Praet was selected ahead of Ayoze Perez, a move which shifted Harvey Barnes to the right wing and James Maddison to the left. The defense remained the same, with Kasper Schmeichel in goal and Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell making up the back four. Wilfred Ndidi lined up behind a midfield of Youri Tielemans, Praet, Maddison, and Barnes. Jamie Vardy was the lone striker in our standard 4-1-4-1 setup.

The opening five minutes might be generously described as “nervy” for the Foxes. The hosts completely lost Trent Alexander-Arnold on an early throw in, allowing him to test Schmeichel with a swerving drive. Shortly afterwards, a poor pass from the Leicester keeper fell to Mohammed Salah on the wing. The Egypt man swung the ball to the near post and Sadio Mane just failed to turn the ball into the net as no one followed his run.

Leicester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League
I’m not posting pictures of highlights because there just weren’t any. Enjoy the slumped shoulders.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Things didn’t exactly calm down over the next quarter hour, but the chaos was a little more evenly distributed. Both sides looked a single pass from opening up their opponents. Leicester were finding joy down the right through Barnes when he was able to stay onside. However, the Foxes’ defense was struggling with turnovers deep in their own half and giving too many opportunities to a team that often punishes this sort of generosity.

Liverpool broke the deadlock on the half hour mark in what has become typically controversial fashion. As Ricardo went to retrieve a ball that was going behind for a corner, Andy Robertson pulled him back by the shoulder to prevent him from reaching it. Referee Michael Oliver missed it and awarded the corner. It was a poor one, but it was only cleared as far as far as Alexander-Arnold, who lofted the ball to the back corner that was met by Roberto Firmino and planted past the stranded Schmeichel.

In case you were wondering, while VAR can review goals, there is no review of corners leading to goals. Apparently.

The rest of the half was without much in the way of meaningful events. Liverpool looked extremely comfortable on the ball. The Foxes couldn’t seem to decide whether to press or to defend deeply and wound up doing neither. The other thing they didn’t do was shoot, as Leicester had exactly zero when Oliver blew the whistle. The 1-0 score at the half was a reasonable reflection of the run of play.

Both sides emerged from the tunnel unchanged and, thus, the run of play also continued unchanged. Leicester were turning the ball over in their own half almost from the opening whistle. Schmeichel made a series of outstanding saves to prevent Liverpool from adding to their lead, but he was just as guilty of handing the ball back to the hosts and the pressure was smothering the hosts.

Brendan Rodgers made his first change on 57’ minutes and it was a strange one, taking off Barnes for Marc Albrighton in a like-for-like swap. Given how well the formation was working (not at all), it was puzzling to see a change in personnel that didn’t change the tactics as well.

Maybe the gaffer knew what he was doing, because the Foxes started to show some life after the change. Leicester won a free kick deep in the Liverpool half after a break from another incorrectly-given corner, but Madders put it well wide. Ricardo made an absolute mug of Robertson on the right, but Virgil did well to block the pull-back.

Calamity struck on 70’ when Söyüncü was adjudged to have handled a corner. Shockingly, Michael Oliver made the correct call as Slabchin was trying to pull his arm back, but didn’t do so before leaning in to the ball. James Milner, who had only just come on, sent Schmeichel the wrong way to double the lead for the visitors.

Leicester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Slumped. Shoulders.
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

It was 3-0, and game over, moments later. Alexander-Arnold was given the run of the pitch again and had ages to pick out his pass. He chose wisely, cutting it back for Firmino. The Brazilian kept his calm, and honestly, given the space he was afforded, that’s all he had to do. He slotted home from close range and put the match beyond doubt.

3-0 was enough, but the Reds weren’t through. Rodgers sent on Hamza Choudhury for Madders in an attempt to stem the tide. It didn’t work. Breaking out of their own area, Sadio Mane got behind the midfield and picked out Alexander-Arnold charging down the right. The full back shot from just outside the area, through the legs of Chilwell, and into the far corner past Schmeichel.

The “highlight” of the match game just after the 80th minutes when Söyüncü charged out of defense with the ball. He beat Alexander-Arnold down the left wing, gave it to Perez, who returned it to the defender. He picked out Vardy in the left channel, but the striker could only blast it into the side netting from a tight angle.

As the intensity dropped, the announcers started to talk about Leicester’s “natural place” in the league. I expected them to start discussing where our best players should go to “fulfill their ambitions”, but mercifully, it never got quite that bad. The only sounds coming from the crowd were the Liverpool fans singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

It was that bad.

Well, that was awful. The fact that it was only 1-0 after 45 minutes gave Leicester some hope of salvaging the match and the Foxes were actually slightly on top in the second period when the floodgates opened and Liverpool scored three goals in ten minutes. We were poor. Liverpool had an answer for everything we tried and, obviously, the reverse wasn’t true in the slightest.

By my reckoning, two of our players acquitted themselves well: Ricardo and Ndidi. That’s it. Everyone else had a moment or two, but nothing sustained. The biggest issue, though, was tactical. Leicester were overwhelmed from the opening whistle. This time a year ago, a struggling Foxes side tightened up the defense and put together three straight wins, beating Cardiff, Manchester City, and Chelsea in the last three fixtures of 2018. I’m not certain what answer we could have had for Liverpool today, but “Maddison on the left wing” was most definitely not it.

Well, when you put it that way, it sounds...exactly how it was.

The defeat leaves us on 39 points from 19 matches which is still ridiculously good and that is not to be ignored. We remain second on the table, but that’s pending the Manchester City result tomorrow. We have less than 48 hours to rest before the match on Saturday at West Ham, and then it’s up to Newcastle for a New Year’s day match at St. James’ Park.