A Goal from Mo Salah and a first of the season for Philippe Coutinho looked to have Klopp’s side cruising to victory.
Liverpool’s supporters like to sing of watching poetry in motion. But there was nothing poetic about this scrambled, anxiety-inducing, edge-of-seat rumble of a victory. Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool are less the laureates of the Premier League and more the masters of flying by the seat of their expensively-sponsored shorts. Not that the manager will mind. As his leap at the final whistle suggested, this was a three points he was mighty relieved to achieve.
The fear for Klopp was that, after losing at the Kingpower in a midweek cup tie, this game might pan out as Tuesday had. And indeed, in the early exchanges the pattern appeared to have changed little: Liverpool had all the early possession, most of which broke down on the edge of the Leicester area, where Harry Maguire would intervene and hoof the ball forwards.
Certainly Craig Shakespeare’s tactical approach had not changed in the space of four days: sit back, wait to break, use Jamie Vardy’s pace to discomfort a Liverpool backline not renowned for its ability to back pedal. And so it was after five minutes, when Vardy burst on to Shinji Okazaki’s through ball and galloped into the area, rasping a shot against Simon Mignolet’s palms. The ball bounced out to Riyad Mahrez who put an invitation of a rebound over the bar.
As a miss it was challenged eight minutes later, this time at the other end. After another period of patient Liverpool build-up, Mohammed Salah laid the ball off to Emre Can. From about 30 yards out, the German’s rasping drive hit the post. Salah, admirably continuing his forward run, was first to the rebound, but unchallenged from five yards out, steered it wide. From the home sections the jeers were loud and pointed.
But after Tuesday’s success, it seemed only a matter of time before Leicester’s dependence on their visitors’ profligacy was put to the test. Moments after he had missed his sitter, Salah made amends. Coutinho’s beautiful cross arced its way behind the Leicester backline to where the Egyptian was running in ahead of Ben Chilwell. At a gallop, he steered his header past Kasper Schmeichel.
Moments later, Mignolet was almost caught in possession by Vardy. His panicked clearance landed at Okazaki’s feet. With the keeper stranded, the Leicester forward somehow contrived to strike the ball in the one area Mignolet could reach and the chance was missed.
Almost immediately Liverpool demonstrated how much the Leicester forwards could come to regret their wastefulness. Galloping forward, Alberto Moreno was brought down by Wilfred Ndidi who appeared to trample over the Liverpool man as he lay prone. The visitors did not take long to extract revenge. Coutinho demonstrated what Barcelona missed out on when he elegantly steered the ball round the wall, beyond Schmeichel into the corner. Klopp looked on stern-faced and resolute, like a man who knows that with this team two goals is probably not enough.
And so it proved. Even with Coutinho a constant source of probing precision, Vardy was always there, always lurking. With the half-time whistle about to sound, the England man once more tore forward provoking a disoriented Joel Matip to trip him as he belted towards the area. From the resulting free-kick, his clever backheader was pushed behind.
Following the pattern of the season – in which every set-piece Liverpool concede seems to deliver goal-scoring opportunity – from the corner Maguire rose above the statuesque visiting backline to head goalwards, where, despite Mignolet’s attempt to remove the shirt from his back, Okazaki stabbed home.
As the second half began, Leicester were straight in it. Vardy in particular had the Liverpool central defenders playing as if the pitch was covered with ice, constantly nervy, wary, anxious. Every time he belted forward, panic seemed to spread among the red shirts.
But the irony was, against a side set up to counter, Liverpool reclaimed ascendancy on the break. Maguire, who had shown himself constantly willing to carry the ball forward, was dispossessed in the middle of the Leicester half. The ball was prodded forward to the substitute Daniel Sturridge whose perfectly-weighted pass found Jordan Henderson, who stepped inside and shot past Schmeichel.
Any home supporters tempted to head for the exits, thinking that was it, had clearly not been watching much of Liverpool latterly. They may have been 3-1 up, but this is the side who have lost 20 points from winning positions since the start of last season. And, sensing their visitors did not have the wherewithal to sit on a lead, Leicester poured forward.
Mark Albrighton skinned Joe Gomez and hurtled forward. His cross picked out substitute Demari Gray whose shot was saved at a stretch by Mignolet. But the ball bounced invitingly to Vardy who did not miss the opportunity to score his 70th goal for the club.
A minute later, Vardy was at it again. Tearing forward he was brought down by Mignolet. Anthony Taylor had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Which Vardy, in his customary fashion, smacked goalwards. But Mignolet stood firm and saved a penalty for the seventh time in a Liverpool shirt. It proved the most crucial of interventions.
Credits: The telegraph