Leicester City 2:0 Liverpool
Despite Liverpool’s total domination in the first half of this Carabao Cup 3rd round tie at the KPS on Tuesday night, an Okazaki-inspired City conjured up a 2-0 victory…
Craig Shakespeare made seven changes to his side, with Iborra and Dragovic making their debuts. But it was a youthful-looking Liverpool side, with Coutinho pulling the strings in midfield, that dominated play from the start, ending the half with 76% of the possession.
Although the Reds had 13 attempts on goal in the first half Hamer wasn’t that busy, with the City defence blocking most of them. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Grujic had their efforts blocked; Solanke fired one wide and Hamer saved a Coutinho shot.
Grujic thern headed wide from a corner and Coutinho sent another shot straight at Hamer.
With Slimani and Ulloa starved of service up front City’s first chance came in the 20th minute when Gray capped a run with a shot that was comfortably saved by Ward.
Liverpool then continued to tot up the chances, without troubling the scoreboard.
Solanke fired a shot over from close in, and had another effort blocked, before Robertson sent a left-footer wide.
An Oxlade-Chamberlain shot didn’t test Hamer, and the Coutinho missed the target with two other shots.
Having done virtually nothing but defend for 45 minutes, City had at least done that right, with a 0-0 scoreline that almost defied logic.
In an apparently pre-ordained move Coutinho was withdrawn at the break, and with him went most of Liverpool’s creativity.
The second major turning point of the game came in the 53rd minute when Ulloa had to go off after falling heavily and was replaced by Okazaki.
The Japanese international instantly brought the near sell-out crowd to life with a strong run through the middle that showed more energy and positivity than anything they had witnessed in the whole first half.
Gray then went on a run through the middle, but sent his long range effort narrowly wide of the right hand post.
It was much improved performance from City and they took a 65th minute lead.
A ball forward from Chilwell saw Morgan win an aerial duel, Iborra nodded the ball into Okazaki’s path, and he steered it home from 12 yards out.
Liverpool continued to waste chances. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Woodburn both cleared the bar, while Ings failed to make proper contact with a header from close in.
City gave them another spectacular lesson in finishing in the 78th minute when Slimani, running along the 18 yard line launched an unstoppable shot into the top left hand corner.
City almost made it 3-0 two minutes later when Gray cut in from the left and sent a shot towards the bottom right hand corner that Ward did well to palm round the post.
Young prospect Choudhury made his first appearance replacing Ndidi in the 84th minute, as City saw the game out.
City were into the 4th round of the Carabao Cup, an outcome you wouldn’t have believed at half time. This game highlighted the importance of Shinji Okazaki to the side in the current set-up.
Craig Shakespeare paid tribute to Okazaki: “He has got his head down and trained impeccably but that is the character of the man. He won’t change. He has always been like that. He has walked away with the man of the match trophy and he didn’t even play half the game. That just shows you the level of his contribution and impact he was able to make from the bench.”
Leicester: Hamer, Amartey, Morgan, Dragovic, Chilwell, Albrighton, Ndidi (Choudhury 84), Iborra, Gray, Ulloa (Okazaki 53), Slimani. Substitutes: Iheanacho, Musa, Jakupovic, Mahrez, Benalouane.
Liverpool: Ward, Flanagan, Gomez, Klavan, Robertson, Wijnaldum (Ings 73), Henderson, Grujic, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke, Coutinho (Woodburn 45). Substitutes: Karius, Milner, Moreno, Markovic, Alexander-Arnold.
Referee: S Attwell. Attendance: 31,609.
ALL PHOTOS: Simon Kimber.
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