Leicester City edged past Liverpool by a score of 1-0 in a Tuesday evening affair at the King Power. Mo Salah missed a penalty in a goalless first half, and the Reds were made to pay as Ademola Lookman scored midway through the second period for the game’s only goal. This marked the first time Leicester have won three home games on the trot in two years.
OK, that’s the “professional” take. Let me be a little less formal: It was #$%#$%#@#$ great!
With only 48 hours between matches, the gaffer was once again forced to play the hand he was dealt. Fortunately, the hand included a few cards that weren’t available on Boxing Day: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Timothy Castagne, Daniel Amartey, Wilfred Ndidi, Luke Thomas, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Boubakary Soumare, Hamza Choudhury, James Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Jamie Vardy.
The match started better for the Foxes than did the Boxing Day affair against Man City, but that is a low, low hurdle to clear. Leicester’s back line looked shaky but there were no serious threats on goal either so we’ll take it. There weren’t many opportunities going forward, so the match was largely a matter of absorbing pressure and then trying to break.
On the quarter-hour, the Reds had a golden opportunity to go ahead. With the ball pinging around in the penalty area, Ndidi attempted to challenge Mo Salah. There was definitely contact and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. The Egyptian took the spot-kick himself and made a mess of it, finding Schmeichel’s midriff. The ball bounced straight back to Salah, but he headed against the bar and the ball was cleared behind to safety.
Kasper was our man of the (half) match, making nice saves from an Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain cross that just eluded Jordan Henderson and a Salah snap-shot from close range. The Foxes started to get back into it as Vardy and Madders both got behind the defence and saw their efforts from a tight angle blocked and drift wide, respectively.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the first half is how few highlights there were. Those two Schmeichel saves were the only two shots on target of the half. Liverpool looked more likely to score, but Leicester had a few fractional chances and weren’t being overrun by the Reds. There have been worse halves of football for City like, say, two days ago.
The second half started much as the first ended with the match wide open but neither team able to get a telling touch. Sadio Mane should have opened the scoring when put through by Diogo Jota, but he blasted over when one on one with Schmeichel.
Neither manager was well pleased with what they saw, so both made changes on just 55’. For the Foxes, Rodgers hauled off Choudhury and Iheanacho and introduced Ademola Lookman and Youri Tielemans. With Alexander-Arnold struggling defensively on the Leicester left, Lookman was deployed on that wing to try to take advantage.
It worked a treat almost immediately. Lookman won the ball in midfield and found Dewsbury-Hall. The local lad charged forward and slipped in Lookman, who’d continued his run. Trapped between the imposing figures of Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk, he squeezed off a shot that beat Alisson at the near post, giving the Foxes a precious 1-0 lead.
“Square it to Vardy...square it to Vardy...oh, that’ll do.”
A Konstantinos Tsimikas run was stopped by Madders deep in the Leicester penalty area. He stopped the attack, but felt something in his leg in the challenge and had to come off. Marc Albrighton came on in his stead as Leicester’s final substitution. This became an issue as Vardy came off worse in a challenge with Van Dijk and would clearly have been substituted had that been an option. It was going to be a long twenty minutes plus injury time.
This is going to sound daft because, as I’m writing it, I’m struggling to get my head around it, but the central defensive pairing of Ndidi and Amartey was absolutely imperious. Liverpool continued to have roughly all of the possession, but they struggled to trouble Kasper’s goal. Some shots were off-target, but even more of them were blocked by the increasingly frantic Leicester defence.
The fourth official’s sign indicated five minutes of time added on but even with the additional minutes, Liverpool couldn’t find a way through. In all, they took 21 shots, but only 4 of them were on-target. In addition, they had 12 corners to Leicester’s 1, but the much-maligned back line held firm.
We scored with our only shot on target and our only effort in the second half. Was it all a bit “smash and grab”? Oh my heavens yes. But, it was also the finest defensive effort I’ve seen from a Leicester defence in a long, long time. We weren’t just facing a nearly full-strength Liverpool side; it was also a squad that hadn’t played since last we met them on 22 December. Full credit to Ndidi, Amartey, Castagne, Thomas, and Schmeichel for forming a wall at the back.
Leicester City today with one shot on target: pic.twitter.com/AP4JxCcmau— Jake Lawson (@karmadrome) December 28, 2021
I didn’t tweet this just so I could use it here (as far as you know).
The victory vaults us up to 9th on the table with 25 points from 19 matches. There’s no time to rest on our laurels or on our anything for that matter as we host Norwich City on New Year’s Day. After that, we get a full week off before squaring off against Watford in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.