September 01, 2018
Liverpool made it four wins from four matches for the season but got a reminder that they are far from perfect. Leicester exposed their vulnerabilities here while demonstrating that they are a dangerous outfit themselves. Liverpool prevailed thanks to first-half goals by Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino but endured several scares in addition to conceding their first goal of the campaign, Rachid Ghezzal netting after a panicky blunder by Alisson.
Alisson’s blushes spared as Liverpool edge to nervy win at Leicester
The pre-match indications had suggested this would be Liverpool’s most stringent test of the season to date and so it proved. Liverpool had hinted at fragility in the second half of last week’s edgy win against Brighton, and Leicester had the smarts to probe awkwardly for weaknesses even without the suspended Jamie Vardy.
Alisson’s blushes spared as Liverpool edge to nervy win at Leicester
With the former England centre-forward replaced by Demarai Gray rather than a specialist striker, Claude Puel counted on slick interplay to unhinge Liverpool’s hitherto inviolable defence. As part of that plan, Ghezzal, the winger signed from Monaco during the summer, was given his first league start having sparkled during the midweek trouncing of Fleetwood in the Carabao Cup. Ghezzal, Gray and James Maddison would be pesky mischief-makers.
In recognition of the threat posed by Leicester, Klopp made his first alteration to his starting XI since the beginning of the season and it was a curious one, fielding Jordan Henderson instead of Naby Keïta in midfield because “we have to be rock solid in all departments as Leicester are a good footballing team – we need to defend very well, be really compact”.
Klopp is well aware that if Liverpool are to fulfil their quest for the Premier League title, they must offer more than devastating offensive storms. They must also show stability. Keïta is no flake but Klopp suggested Henderson was fresher for this duel. That, however, deprived Liverpool of the midfield thrust that Keïta has added since his keenly anticipated arrival in the summer.
But such concerns seemed unfounded early on. Liverpool cut through their hosts after four minutes and should have capitalised with a goal. First, Firmino was denied by Kasper Schmeichel after a lovely pass by Mohamed Salah, then Salah botched the rebound, sidefooting wide from eight yards.
Liverpool made amends three minutes later. Andy Robertson ran through Nampalys Mendy down the left before crossing for Mané, who stabbed into the net from seven yards.
Alisson’s blushes spared as Liverpool edge to nervy win at Leicester
For the next 15 minutes Leicester looked helpless, unable to touch the ball as Liverpool circulated it with almost regal splendour. Test? This was a doddle for Liverpool.
But then Leicester got to grips with them. Alisson had to make a good save from Gray in the 22nd minute and for the next 20 minutes the deft interplay between Ghezzal, Gray and Maddison flustered the visitors, while Ben Chilwell made regular incursions down the left. Now Liverpool lacked control in midfield and Klopp was making vexed gestures from the sidelines. Those pre-match concerns were justified.
A goal on the stroke of half-time was exactly what Liverpool needed – and Leicester were sickened by how easily they got it. After Schmeichel pushed a shot by Salah out for a corner, James Milner delivered an outswinging cross and Firmino did not even have to jump to meet it, giving Maddison the slip before guiding a downward header into the net.
The test was far from over. Leicester took the fight even harder to Liverpool from the start of the second half. Joe Gomez made a vital block from a shot by Maddison after the Leicester man had skipped past Virgil van Dijk, who was booked soon afterwards for resorting to a trip to stop him.
Liverpool were struggling to get out of their half and the pressure ultimately triggered an elementary mistake by their goalkeeper in the 63rd minute. After collecting a hurried backpass by Van Dijk, Alisson got himself in a muddle, tricking himself as he tried to dupe the in-rushing Kelechi Iheanacho. The Brazilian had warned Liverpool fans this week that he might frighten them by taking risks with the ball at his feet but he got his sums wrong here and Iheanacho made him look a dunce. The Nigerian substitute helped himself to the ball and laid it back for Ghezzal, who swept it into the empty net from close range.
As Leicester continued to build menacingly Klopp made a pair of changes, replacing Salah with Xherdan Shaqiri and restoring Keïta to midfield in place of Henderson. The Guinean had been missed and soon helped to steady Liverpool.
They held on to their lead but left knowing they must improve to be at the top of the table at the end of the season.
Alisson’s blushes spared as Liverpool edge to nervy win at Leicester

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