Leicester City 0:4 Liverpool
Liverpool looked every inch the champions-in-waiting in this 1st v 2nd place Boxing Day clash, with City struggling to perform to the standards of their recent winning run…
Brendan Rodgers made one change to his side as City attempted to rein in Liverpool’s ten point lead, with Praet in for Pérez.
But from very early on Liverpool looked the better side, as City’s usual defensive composure appeared to be absent. In the first minute Alexander-Arnold was given too much room to fire in a shot that Schmeichel got down to smartly. A minute later Salah crossed from the right, and Mané ghosted in behind the defence but couldn’t get a decent touch at the near post.
City attempted to get forward but the Reds’ defence snuffed out any attempt to get the ball to Vardy. They then won a corner but Liverpool rapidly broke upfield. Keita played a through ball to Salah, who was forced wide by Schmeichel and then sent his shot from an acute angle into the side-netting.
After a quarter of an hour Henderson’s well-struck shot was blocked by Ndidi, and the ball span towards the top corner, but went narrowly wide.
City then counter-attacked from a Liverpool corner, but Barnes’ charge forward was halted by the advancing Alisson.
City were eventually breached just after the half hour mark. Alexander-Arnold whipped a wicked diagonal ball towards the far post, where Firmino rose to nod it home.
Three minutes later the visitors should have doubled their lead. Evans and Söyüncü got into an uncharacteristic tangle trying to shepherd the ball to safety and presented Mané with a golden chance from ten yards out. But his shot was too close to Schmeichel who spread himself well to block.
City managed to make it to the break just a goal behind, despite looking shaky at the back and with too many players having an off day.
There were no changes at half time, and City won a corner early on when a Tielemans shot was deflected wide by Gomez. But Maddison’s evening was summed up when he couldn’t get his corner kick beyond the first man.
At the other end City were having to deal with some threatening deliveries from Alexander-Arnold. Chilwell blocked one, Ricardo leapt to clear another and a third fell for Salah, who blasted over.
Robertson then whipped a ball in from the left, but Firmino near post flick sent it wide of the far post.
City were under siege at times. Robertson’s cross from the left was nodded goalwards by Firmino. Schmeichel beat it away for Salah whose shot was blocked by the City keeper’s leg onto the post, before the drama was halted by the linesman offside flag.
Brendan Rodgers made his first change in the 58th minute, bringing Albrighton on for Barnes. And City’s best spell of the game followed.
Vardy at last was sent through on goal, but Gomez brought him down. Maddison took the free-kick and went for goal, despite the tight angle, the ball curling beyond the far post.
Ricardo then surged into the area, beating two defenders before cutting the ball back for Vardy, but van Dijk intercepted.
But City’s brief revival came to nought, as Liverpool doubled their lead in the 71st minute. A corner from the left struck Söyüncü on the arm and Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. It looked harsh as he was trying to get his arm out of the way. Milner, just on as sub, sent Schmeichel the wrong way with his first touch of the game.
Perez made way for Praet shortly after the goal, but City were still struggling to make any kind of impression, and the evening got worse in the 74th minute. Alexander-Arnold blasted in a low cross from the right and Firmino had to time to take a touch and pick his spot from 12 yards out.
Choudhury then replaced the completely subdued Maddison in an attempt to shore things up, but Liverpool struck again in the 78th minute. Mané fed Alexander-Arnold in on the right and he crowned a superb performance with a goal, firing a fierce low drive across Schmeichel.
The rest of the game was played out at practice pace, as the crowd headed for the exits, to complete City’s chastening Christmas programme.
Liverpool are undoubtedly a great side, who are heading for their first League title in 30 years, but City’s performance was way below the standard they have set themselves this season.
Brendan Rodgers summed up: “We just didn’t have long enough periods with the ball. When you don’t against a top team – world champions – it becomes difficult for you. We are at the halfway point now. We are 19 games in. It is the bigger picture with these guys. We have come a long way in this period. The players have been brilliant and this is another learning game for them, they see the physicality you need to compete. People were trying to put us in a race with Liverpool but we know where we are.”
Leicester: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell, Ndidi, Barnes (Albrighton 58), Praet (Pérez 72), Tielemans, Maddison (Choudhury 76), Vardy.
Substitutes: Justin, Morgan, Gray, Ward.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson, Keita (Milner 70), Henderson (Lallana 82), Wijnaldum, Salah (Origi 70), Firmino, Mané.
Substitutes: Adrián, Shaqiri, Jones, Williams.
Referee: Michael Oliver. Attendance: 32,211.
PHOTOS: Simon Kimber.