Leicester City 3:1 Liverpool
Craig Shakespeare’s first game in charge of Leicester saw an emphatic 3:1 win over Liverpool at the KPS on Monday night…
The caretaker boss, who may well have staked a permanent claim to the job, sent out last season’s first choice side, with Ndidi in the Kante role, and also seemed to have summoned last season’s spirit.
Right from the start of the game, City looked like a completely different side to the one that had struggled through this Premier League campaign.
Vardy was haring around the turf and hurt Mane with a tasty challenge in the first minute. City pressed forward and Huth connected with an Albrighton throw, giving Mignolet a comfortable save.
The Liverpool keeper was more stretched by the next effot when Okazaki got his head to a mishit Vardy shot.
Liverpool’s first attack came in the 10th minute when Mane sent in a dangerous low cross from the right, but Ndidi extended a long leg to intercept.
City soon threatened again when Huth should have done better with a header from an Albrighton corner, but sent it well over.
Another chance arrived for City in the 20th minute when Vardy turned Lucas with a flick, but mistimed his connection as the ball dropped allowing Mignolet to block.
Huth blocked a fierce Coutinho effort as Liverpool came more into the game, but then City took a vital 28th minute lead with a goal that conjured up memories of last season.
A defence-splitting pass from Albrighton sent Vardy in down the right and he raced clear and fired home City’s first league goal of 2017 giving Mignolet no chance.
Although this raised the KPS roof, Liverpool almost struck back straight away when Coutinho went clear of City’s defence down the left, but Schmeichel came racing out to block his shot.
City were soon on the attack again, Mahrez sent Vardy into the box but his clever back-heel was sidefooted over the bar by Ndidi.
City didn’t have to wait long for their second goal, however, and it was truly spectacular when it arrived in the 38th minute.
From a half-cleared corner, Albrighton sent a cross into the goalmouth and when Milner headed it clear it presented itself to Drinkwater on the edge of the area. He crashed home a perfect half-volley into the bottom right hand corner and the KPS went nuts again.
City took their 2-0 lead in with them at the break, with the crowd as well as the players needing to get their breath back.
Despite the two goal cushion, nerves were still jangling as Liverpool dictated play in the first period of the second half. This was a passage of play on which City’s whole season could hinge. Liverpool’s passing game was clicking into gear and Mane was beginning to look threatening.
But then City struck again to make it 3-0 on the hour.Mahrez and Fuchs combined well down the left and Fuchs dummied a left foot cross, before delivering a perfect ball into the area with his right. There was Vardy, perfectly placed in the middle to direct a fine header into the bottom right corner to surely seal a fantastic victory.
Klopp’s side were stung into action now, and City had some defending to do. Lallana went close with one effort , before the visitors narrowed the gap in the 68th minute. Can set up Coutinho, who found himself to space to run into and line up a a precise shot past Schmeichel.
This came soon after a touching ‘phone light’ tribute to Claudio Ranieri around the ground, which struck the right tone.
Shakespeare made his first substition after the goal, bringing on Amartey for Okazaki who had run himself into the ground.
Liverpool set up camp in City’s half again without actually creating many chances, and they were almost caught out on the break when Mignolet arrived in the nick of time as Vardy raced after a long ball forward.
Mahrez then went on a run down the right and into the box before being crowded out: he laid the ball off to Drinkwater who skied his effort when well placed.
Mahrez was then replaced by Gray.
Liverpool upped the pressure as the final whistle approached, but the City defence held firm.
Fuchs came within inches of a fourth goal in time added on, lobbing a long-range effort that had Mignolet backpedalling as it just cleared the bar.
The final whistle brought emotional scenes. Last season’s Leicester had reappeared.
Perhaps we will never know why. Some fans had a strange mixture of elation and anger, thinking that the players had stitched Ranieri up by under-performing for most of the season. Others pointed to subtle changes like Ndidi playing a more defensive role and Drinkwater in a more effective forward position making the difference.
Perhaps it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that Leicester were back and looked much better equipped for the battle against relegation.
Craig Shakespeare, who may well be in charge for the remainder of the season and possibly longer, observed: “I think some of it is human nature when people criticise you there is bound to be a reaction. I know the criticism has hurt and perhaps there was a little more fire in the belly because of that. They know they are guilty of underperforming – but this is only one result and we must build on that.”
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez (Gray 80), Drinkwater, Ndidi, Albrighton (Chilwell 90), Okazaki (Amartey 69), Vardy. Subs Not Used: King, Slimani, Zieler, Ulloa.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lucas (Woodburn 84), Milner, Lallana (Origi 66), Can, Wijnaldum, Mane (Moreno 66), Firmino, Coutinho. Subs Not Used: Karius, Klavan, Stewart, Alexander-Arnold.
Referee: L Mason. Attendance: 32,034.
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