Leicester City were comprehensively beaten at Anfield by Liverpool in Sunday’s late affair. The Reds raced to a 2-0 first half lead through a Jonny Evans own goal and a Diogo Jota header. The Foxes failed to rally in the second half and the hosts added a late third via a Roberto Firmino header.
Of all the players who were expected back immediately after the international break, exactly none of them were in the squad as three of the four first-choice defenders remained unavailable. Brendan Rodgers stuck with his 3-4-2-1 formation with Kasper Schmeichel in goal behind a back three of Christian Fuchs, Jonny Evans, and Wesley Fofana. Marc Albrighton and James Justin were deployed as wingbacks, flanking a central midfield partnership of Youri Tielemans and Nampalys Mendy. In attack, Harvey Barnes and James Maddison slotted in behind striker Jamie Vardy.
The match started at a blistering pace, probably too much like a game of basketball of Rodgers’ taste, but very entertaining to watch. The Foxes had an early penalty shout when a Madders ball was handled by Joel Matip in the area. It was at a very close range, but it was also hand-to-ball and the referee wasn’t having any of it. At the other end, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota forced decent saves from Schmeichel as the hosts were finding it a little too easy to get through the Leicester defense.
Anyone who claims to fully understand what is and is not a penalty these days is a dirty fibber. I genuinely have no idea if this should be a penalty or not and can give you three reason for either call.
The Reds made their advantage pay on the quarter hour through utterly farcical means. Jota won a corner and it was played directly to Evans in front of goal. He seemed to forget which end of the pitch he was on as he casually nodded it into the net past the despairing Schmeichel.
Liverpool had the ball in the back of the net moments later, although it was rightly chalked off. Schmeichel easily collected Andy Robertson’s cross, but two Reds barreled into the Danish stopper, knocking him and the ball into the net. At the other end, the Foxes ought to have equalized. Nice work from Fofana released Vardy on the left. He pulled the ball back for the onrushing Barnes, who clipped the ball wide of the far post when simply side-footing it into the net would have done the trick.
After a period of fairly even play, the hosts turned it up a notch and doubled their lead. With the ball out on the Liverpool left, Robertson turned Albrighton inside out. This gave him an acre of space to pick out a cross, finding Jota’s run across Fuchs. It was a perfect delivery and a perfect finish and there’s just not much you can do about that one. Perhaps Albrighton shouldn’t have over-committed, but it was just a goal of real quality.
Again, Leicester were close to responding in kind but again, failed to actually get the ball in the net. A nice passing move found Tielemans alone just outside the area. He lined up a shot and fired it low towards the far corner. What had worked twice during for Belgium last week didn’t quite do the trick against Alisson. The keeper spilled the ball, but Jota just beat Albrighton to the rebound and the chance was gone.
That did it for the half and it’s hard to say that 2-0 wasn’t a fair representation of the run of play. This was not a good half of football by the Foxes, who looked nervous and out of sorts for long periods of time, and it couldn’t be completely blamed on the extensive injury list.
Given the way the first half went, it was a bit surprising that the Foxes emerged unchanged from the tunnel. Or, more accurately, the personnel were unchanged, but the formation had been tweaked. Maddison was playing directly behind Vardy in a more central position. The adjustment seemed to discombobulate the hosts as Madders was able to pick out Barnes’ run behind the defense. His left-footed shot was easily held, but it was encouraging.
Moments later, Vardy nicked the ball on the right wing and drove into the penalty area. He had both Maddison and Barnes lined up to shoot, but his pass was poked behind for a corner by Matip. As is tradition for City, the corner came to nothing having failed to beat the first man.
After a couple of Liverpool chances, including Evans going for an own-goal brace but hitting the inside of the bar from close range, the Foxes won a free kick deep in the Merseysiders’ half. It struck the one-man wall and fell agonizingly out of reach of Vardy in front of the net. It pinballed around the area but never found a white Leicester shirt and the Reds were able to clear.
Rodgers made his first changes just after the hour, sending Cengiz Ünder and Dennis Praet on for Fuchs and Barnes. Leicester enjoyed a nice spell of possession and looked threatening to some small degree, but soon Liverpool were back on top and looking likely to extend their lead. Jota went down after sending a low shot wide, but neither the referee nor VAR were remotely interested.
It had been a rough day for Fofana and that was never more obvious than on the 75’ mark. Firmino made him look foolish and left him for dead. The Brazillian’s strike came off the post. The Liverpool #9 gave it another go, but it was cleared off the line by Albrighton as far as Mane. Schmeichel got just enough of the Senegal man’s strike to turn it on to the post, allowing the Dane to finally gather.
Anyway, it just wasn’t happening for us. Liverpool got a third on 85’ from another corner, this time with Roberto Firmino nodding in with an unmarked effort from six yards. Again, Leicester came sort-of close to answering immediately, with Fofana putting a header over from close range.
It was at this point in the broadcast that NBC started playing a tape of the Kop singing “You’re Never Walk Alone” because of course they did. The Foxes never stopped fighting for a consolation goal, or perhaps more accurately, they seemed to only start fighting, but it wasn’t coming and it wouldn’t matter had it done so. The match ended at 3-0 and, as much as I hate to say it, that was about the right result.
That was just a lousy match. Liverpool looked good. We didn’t. Our makeshift defense wasn’t up to the task of dealing with the strike force that the Reds were able to field and we seemed to lose confidence early. Injuries are no excuse, of course, but without three of our four first-choice defenders and our top defensive midfielder, it was going to take something special to stop this Liverpool team at Anfield.
Why am I talking so much about injuries? Because, if you watch the NBC broadcast, all you heard about the entire match was how well Liverpool were coping without their injured players and I’m pretty salty about it. I just erased an entire paragraph of examples of just how poor the commentators were. I think instead I’ll just say that it was the most one-sided broadcast I’ve ever heard, even accounting for radio broadcasts by club employees, and leave it at that.
Gonna play a little drinking game this evening— Mark Goodacre (@MarkgLcfc) November 22, 2020
Everytime the expert pundits pre & post match & the commentators mention Liverpool injury crisis I'm going to take a swig of continental lager
Paramedics pre-booked for 7.17pm#LCFC
You’d have been a corpse by then, mate.
The defeat drops the Foxes to 4th place with 18 points from 9 matches. Our European campaign resumes on Thursday with a trip to sunny Portugal to face S.C. Braga. After that, we host Fulham at the King Power a week from Monday in a return to Premier League action.