Liverpool 1:0 Leicester City
City’s unbeaten away run was finally brought to an end in a narrow 1-0 defeat at Anfield by a Liverpool side determined to match Claudio Ranieri’s men for pace and stifle the attacking intent of Vardy and Mahrez…
Claudio Ranieri made only one change with the return from suspension for Huth, in for Wasilewski, while his counterpart Klopp left out the defensive midfielder Lucas to signal his attacking intent.
Pre-match Ranieri and his players were still refusing to predict how far City will go this season, repeating the 40-point mantra, and the fans too were also toeing the party-line with a: “We are staying up” chant as the game kicked-off.
Within the first couple of minutes both sides had gone close through Couthinho and Mahrez, and it soon became apparent that Liverpool would be double-marking both Mahrez and Vardy with midfielders pushing high to take the game to the City with an identical 4-4-2 formation.
City players in possession were soon surrounded by red shirts. Despite this, the irreplaceable and dependable Kante was still able to hold his own in the centre, but City were missing his midfield partner Drinkwater and therefore telling balls to the front pair were few and far between.
Liverpool were clearly trying to ‘out-Leicester’ their high-flying visitors and they were soon making inroads. The Brazilian duo of Coutinho and Firminho were both busy and Can, Origi and Lovren had shots saved by Schmeichel, but otherwise Morgan and Huth were both holding firm as Liverpool finished the half the strongest.
Just before half-time however City almost got on the scoresheet after another enterprising run by Kante, eventually setting up Marhrez, but unfortunately he shot directly at Mignolet who fingertipped the ball over the bar.
Seconds after the restart, and with fans still taking their seats, Vardy found some space to launch a volley at goal, but a tame shot was easily gathered by Mignolet.
A passage of play on 53 minutes had City fans both purring with appreciation and then holding their breath in equal measure. Unusually Kante lost possession in the Liverpool half and the Frenchman then chased half the length of the pitch to win the ball back with a fine tackle in the City penalty area. The resultant clearance saw Can flatten Vardy, which gave City fans a few nervous moments before the striker gingerly got to his feet.
On 63 minutes things really did get worse for City as Benteke, on for Origi, was left unmarked on the penalty spot and the £32.5m striker, duly slotted home his first goal since October.
Ranieri then made a double change with the sluggish Vardy, reportedly suffering from a virus, and Okazaki replaced by Ulloa and Dyer to give City a four-man attack as they tried to chase the game.
City attacked in earnest with the long ball being liberally used in a swirling wind and it almost paid dividends. A Fuchs corner on 71 minutes deceived the keeper but the ball landed on the roof of the net and four minutes later City’s best chance of the game fell to Dyer. More neat work from Kante, swapping passes with Albrighton, and the cross fell perfectly for Dyer whose instinctive shot was well-saved. Mignolet also had to be alert to tip over the resultant corner.
A subdued Mahrez was next to depart to be replaced by Kramaric.
A Fuchs long throw then caused confusion in the Liverpool penalty area when an undecided Mignolet almost gifted a goal but a deflection from Sakho landed in the arms of a relieved keeper.
The previously anonymous King had a couple of chances in the final few minutes to get the elusive equaliser. The first, a header, came from another Fuchs long throw and the second with literally the last touch of the game.
Liverpool had hilariously failed to score an open goal with Schmiechel stranded after coming up for a corner, Morgan just managing to get back in time, and a quick breakaway saw Albrighton cross from the right but King alas could not get any power behind the header.
Ranieri said City looked nervous in their first goalless performance of the season and didn’t start performing until the final half hour. He also commented on how Liverpool stopped his team from playing their natural game: “We know when Liverpool lose the ball they would press us high up the pitch and we were ready to play in this way, with one-two touches and go on the counter-attack, but we lost a lot of passes and for this reason and Liverpool’s players got confidence to play against us.”
Despite a performance below what we have come to expect, results elsewhere ensured City went into the final round of fixtures of 2015 in first place with an 8-point gap from fifth.
City only have a couple of days before their next big game and must be hoping that Drinkwater will be passed fit to resume his assured partnership with City’s midfield general Kante
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Coutinho (Lucas 90), Firmino, Henderson, Sakho, Moreno, Lallana (Allen 90), Can, Origi (Benteke 38). Subs Not Used: Bogdan, Toure, Teixeira, Randall.
Leicester: Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Mahrez (Kramarić 80), Kanté, King, Albrighton; Okazaki (Dyer 69), Vardy (Ulloa 69). Subs Not Used: De Laet, Wasilewski, Schwarzer, Inler.
Referee: M Atkinson. Attendance: 44,123.
Match Report: ROB COE. Photo: Andy Winter.
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Featuring: The record breaking Jamie Vardy; an interview with former-City striker Kevin Phillips; Fully Programmed from Christmas 1984; Fox Diary with hardly a defeat in sight; the latest from the Foxes Trust; What’s happening on #lcfc Twitter, starring Christian Fuchs; Rewind goes back to Wembley 1996; Foxed in the Head – travels to Newcastle and recalls the time when we had to sell our best players; Simon Kimber is our guest columnist; John Hutchinson continues his series on City and World War II; our new series The History of Leicester City in 100 Objects begins; your letters and Bentley’s Roof; Parting Shots our favourite photos of the last month; and 40Something turns 50Something…
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