Leicester City topped Liverpool by a score of 3-1 at the King Power in Saturday’s early game. The Foxes were second-best for much of the match and went behind through a Mo Salah strike. A James Maddison free kick started the comeback, then quickfire goals from Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes sealed it.
James Maddison “we’ve got a lot of injuries but you won’t hear about them because we’re not the big 6”— George (@ManiaaSZN) February 13, 2021
What a guy
“...won’t hear about them because we’re not the big 6 yet.” FTFY.
How much does James Justin mean to Brendan Rodgers? Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind what appeared to be a back four of Daniel Amartey, Jonny Evans, and Çağlar Söyüncü and Ricardo Pereira, deployed on the left for the first time in memory. Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi comprised the central midfield. Marc Albrighton, Harvey Barnes and James Maddison took advanced midfield positions, lining up behind striker Jamie Vardy.
The match started at a breathless pace with both teams looking eager to take a bite out of their foes’ depleted defense. Madders signaled the intent early when he spotted Alisson off his line and attempted an audacious 60 yard effort that didn’t quite come off. At the other end, Mo Salah timed his run perfectly and got in behind the entire defense, but he got his first and second touches all wrong and the chance was lost.
Vardy attempted to conjure memories of one of his famous volleys, but not the one you’re probably thinking of. Barnes’ perfectly weighted pass set Vards on his way in the left channel. From a tight angle, he attempted a lob with the outside of his boot reminiscent of the goal against Spurs, but he just overhit it and it floated harmlessly onto the top of the net.
The visitors were having all of the ball and, to be frank, were looking like scoring whenever they had it. Firmino was finding joy getting down the Liverpool right and should have given the champions the lead on 25’. Sadio Mane rose the highest for a header in the box, knocking it down to the Brazilian four yards out. He lashed it first time and should have scored, but Schmeichel got a hand to it and kept the match scoreless.
The Foxes nearly broke the deadlock against the run of play of play after the half hour mark. Ricardo got the ball to Barnes on the wing deep in the visitors’ half. It looked as if nothing was on, but he picked out a perfect cross. Vardy met it between two defenders ten yards out, but he hit the keeper in the chest with the goalmouth beckoning on either side.
City were growing in to the game and came inches from taking the lead as the half entered the last five minutes. A ball over the top was helped on by a Liverpool head and fell kindly to Vardy in the right channel. He went for power and beat Alisson, but couldn’t beat the crossbar.
Yet another chance came Leicester’s way moments later and again Vardy was the danger man. A cross-field ball from Amartey beat the Liverpool defense and gave Vardy a chance to take a touch, but Alisson was wise to it and was able to prevent the striker from taking the ball around him and tapping home.
That would be the last meaningful action of the half and the Foxes were perhaps a bit fortunate to be level, but also a little unlucky not to have scored. “Finely balanced” anyone?
The second half started with both lineups unchanged, although Evans was still limping from a knock he picked up in an earlier challenge. Perhaps Schmeichel’s remonstrations did have an impact on Taylor as the Foxes were awarded more free kicks in the first five minutes of the second half than were in the entire first forty-five.
The second of those (quite soft) fouls saw Madders take the kick from a dangerous area on the left side of the box. The delivery was poor, but the rebound fell to the former Norwich City man, who slid in a low cross that just eluded Vardy and didn’t make it to the lurking figure of Söyüncü, alone in front of the net.
It was the Reds who had the next chance to open the scoring. A Trent Alexander-Arnold free kick was flicked on by Vardy in the wall. The deflection beat Schmeichel but it cannoned off the crossbar and the danger was cleared.
The breakthrough came through a rare mistake by Tielemans. After winning the ball back well on the right flank, he immediately gave it back in his own half. The reds poured forward and, after a bit of pinball in the area, Roberto Firmino tapped the ball back to Salah who curled it inside the far post with his first touch. The exhausted body language of the Leicester players was a reminder that they had less than three days' rest since their last match.
Rodgers responded by withdrawing Albrighton in favor of Ayoze Perez on the right wing. The move worked brilliantly, although I’m not quite sure how. Barnes won a free kick on the left wing. Madders took it and drove in a low ball that somehow eluded the defense, the attackers, and Alisson. The flag was up for offside as Amartey had swung a foot at it, but VAR determined that Firmino had played him onside and the goal stood.
The Foxes took the lead through even more bizarre circumstances just moments later. A long crossfield ball towards Barnes fell short, but Alisson and his defense got it all wrong. The ball caromed off of them and directly to Vardy, who was able to just walk the ball into the net.
It should have been three for the Foxes moments later. The ball was gifted to Barnes on the wing and he bore down on goal with Vardy in support. Alisson did well to save the initial shot, but he could only push it as far as Vardy. The former Fleetwood Town hitman smashed it but the Liverpool keeper somehow got a finger to it and pushed it off inside of the bar and to safety.
It was three just moments later again. Ndidi’s raking ball found Barnes again with Vardy in support. This time the winger made no mistake, slotting the ball inside the far post with a low drive. In less than seven minutes, the Foxes had turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead.
Perez’ race proved to be a short one as he re-injured the ankle he’d hurt in the Brighton game. Rodgers decided to make a double change and go with three defensive midfielders to see out the match, bringing on Hamza Choudhury and Nampalys Mendy for Ayoze and Tielemans.
Liverpool finally started to see more of the ball in the Leicester half but it was way too late and there was no way through the wall-o’-defensive-midfielders. The damage was done and so was the job.
Strange game, that. We looked nervous and out of sort, hanging on at times and rushing when keeping our cool would have served us better. But, from the moment Maddison’s free kick found the back of the net, everything changed. If anything, the visitors were fortunate to only have conceded three.
Vards is from Sheffield, he’s playing a Def Leppard song, right? Nah, you know he’s winding them up with “Ticket to Ride.”
I’ve gotten away from calling out players for praise, but today’s a good day to revisit that tradition. Amartey did yeoman’s work as makeshift right back, and Ricardo’s first start on the left was an unqualified success. Madders, Vardy, and Barnes all deserve praise for their role in the attack, but for me, Ndidi was the star man. He kept us in it in the first half and launched the attack in the second. Just an absolutely dominating performance from the Nigerian.
The victory gives the Foxes 46 points from 24 matches and puts us 2nd on the table. We’re off to Prague to take on Slavia in the round of 16 in the Europa League on Thusday. On Sunday, it’s off to Villa Park to face Aston Villa in the league.