Leicester City scored three times on Friday at Anfield but managed to lose to Liverpool by a tally of 2-1. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall opened the scoring with an early strike, but two Wout Faes own-goals doomed the Foxes to defeat in spite of a performance that deserved at least a point.
Manager Brendan Rodgers made a few tweaks to his starting XI, keeping the 4-2-3-1 shape but dropping Youri Tielemans and the injured Dennis Praet for this festive programme encounter: Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Daniel Amartey, Wout Faes, Luke Thomas, Wilfred Ndidi (C), Boubakary Soumare, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Ayoze Perez, Harvey Barnes, and Patson Daka.
In a shocking reversal of the Boxing Day debacle against Newcastle, it was the Foxes who jumped out to an early lead. On just five minutes, Jordan Henderson badly misjudged a pull-back for Dewsbury-Hall. The Liverpool defence tracked the runners but neglected to close down KDH on the ball. The midfielder carried the ball into the area unopposed and calmly lifted the ball over Alisson to give City the early lead.
We should start calling him “Moses” on account of the way he parted the Red sea...
The referee stopped play on 12’ as Daka went down in the Liverpool area under no contact at all and clutching the back of his leg. The Zambian was unable to continue and limped gingerly off the pitch. The Reds poured forward in an attempt to take advantage of the temporary one-man advantage and won a free kick on the edge of the area before Jamie Vardy could on, but Trent Alexander-Arnold’s effort was poor and bounced harmlessly off the wall.
The hosts had the ball in the back on the net on 27’ when Ward attempted to clear the ball and found Mo Salah’s back instead. The ball bounced to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who returned it to the striker. The Egyptian easily beat Ward, but the flag went up as Oxlade-Chamberlain had come from an offside position to receive the ball.
Leicester were coping well with everything the hosts were throwing at them and it looked as though the Reds were out of ideas. Cue one Wout Faes and a very, very poor decision. Alexander-Arnold fired in a low cross that Ward had comfortably covered, but the Belgium defender dove in, stuck out his leg, looped it over Ward, and into the far corner to level the score.
Why settle for giving your opponent a leg up when you can give them two? Near the end of the half, a poor Ward clearance was knocked down to Darwin Nunez, who outpaced Castagne and was one-on-one with Ward. He lifted his effort over the keeper but could only find the far post. No matter though, Faes was on hand to tap home from close range. Yep, two own goals in seven minutes.
That was it for the half. Leicester were marginally the better side, but found themselves trailing at the half. Liverpool had two goals on the board without scoring. Funny old game, innit?
The gaffer didn’t make any changes at the half because, honestly, why would he? The system was working aside from the worrying tendency to knock the ball into our own net. Or, at least it was working before the half. The hosts game out of the gates well, with both Henderson and Salah just missing good chances.
City’s first opportunity of the second half should have levelled the score. A brilliant through ball set Barnes away behind the Liverpool defence. He left Matip in his wake, but held the ball too long, allowing Alisson to close the angle and smother the shot.
Just before the hour mark, Rodgers made his second change. Youri Tielemans came on for Ndidi. The Foxes immediately looked more creative, knocking the ball around with a little more authority. Castagne received a fine ball from Tielemans and crossed to find an unmarked Dewsbury-Hall in the centre, but Leicester’s goalscorer nodded his effort wide when you would have expected him to at least hit the target.
With twenty minutes to play and things slowing down again, Rodgers hauled off Ayoze for Kelechi Iheancho. City regained the initiative, but Barnes saw himself beaten by TAA twice in a row which is probably a record for the England fullback. Barnes saw his blushes saved just minutes later when his close-range effort cannoned off the bar as the flag was up for Vardy being offside in the buildup.
The match just sort of fizzled out after that. The hosts decided that maybe it was time to just see the match out and City didn’t have the creativity to unlock their defensive lines. Liverpool had an opportunity or two but Nunez left his shooting boots..wait, this was a home match, so saying “at home” doesn’t make much sense. He struggled to hit the target. Let’s leave it at that.
Let’s get this out of the way: Wout Faes is not a terrible defender, even if his mistakes cost us this match. He’s always been a high-risk/high-reward defender and you’re going to get costly mistakes from him sometimes. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that he was excellent outside of the two own goals* and Liverpool didn’t create nearly as many chances as most of us were expecting.
Go ahead. Get it out of your system. We were all thinking it.
It was an otherwise-decent performance and a good response to the “spineless” effort against Newcastle. The tactics in the first half discombobulated Liverpool and Tielemans’ introduction seemed to nullify the changes the Reds made at the half. A draw probably would have been about right, and you take that at Anfield every damn time.
The defeat leaves us on 17 points from 17 matches. If I run the numbers through my supercomputer, that puts us on pace for a very worrying 38 for the season. We’re currently 13th on the table, but we are very unlikely to be there when the next match rolls around. Speaking of the “next match,” we close out the first half of the season and the festive programme on Tuesday when Fulham visit the King Power. Next Saturday, we travel to the banks of the Medway to face Gillingham in our first FA Cup match of the campaign.
* “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs Lincoln?”