Liverpool – Leicester saw the defending Premier League champion Reds rally as an injury- and COVID-19-ravaged squad to breeze past the Foxes, the side which began the weekend top of the table, in a 3-0 romp at Anfield on Sunday.
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An early own goal got Liverpool on their way, and they never looked back as Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino added goals either side of halftime. The result sends Liverpool onto 20 points from their first nine games, though they finish the weekend in second place due to Tottenham Hotspur’s superior goal differential.
3 things we learned: Liverpool – Leicester
1. Klopp just as brilliant as his players: With six first-choice starters unavailable due to injuries and positive COVID-19 test results, Klopp’s hands were effectively tied behind his back as he picking his 18-man squad for Sunday’s game. While he elected to stick with his usual 4-3-3 formation, it functioned far more defensively than it usually would and that ultimately gave Leicester far greater problems than they would have had under the usual high press from the Reds. As a result, that meant far fewer scoring chances at the other end, therefore the ones they did create had to be of the highest quality, and taken well. Check, check and check. On the weekend that saw Jose Mourinho and Tottenham execute a tactical masterclass to beat Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, Klopp was quick to remind everyone he belongs in the “genius” class as well.
2. Liverpool defense doing its part: In their first five games this season, Liverpool conceded 13 goals. In the four games since then, including the win over Leicester, they have conceded three times. Of course, they didn’t get “better” when Virgil van Dijk was lost to injury for the season, but Klopp and Co., have undeniably struck a much better balance between defense and attack — partially out of necessity — which results in their first clean sheet of the Premier League season on Sunday.
3. Lifeless Leicester: Given all of the advantages outlined above, Leicester offered virtually nothing. They were a beaten side as soon as Jonny Evans headed the ball into his own goal, though they had the look of a hopeless bunch long before that. Brendan Rodgers has done a masterful job over the last 12 months, but Sunday’s non-performance must go down as a heavy mark against him.
Liverpool started the game on top, and they stayed there for the entirety of the 90 minutes.
With barely two minutes on the clock, Sadio Mane headed just wide of the near post from James Milner’s free kick.
Jota went even closer to opening the scoring in the 13 minute as he fired to Kasper Schmeichel’s right, but the big Danish goalkeeper made the save.
Liverpool’s breakthrough arrived, courtesy of Leicester defender Evans, in the 21 minute. Milner sent his right-sided corner kick to the top of the six-yard box, where Evans and Mane were engaged in a battle for position. Evans couldn’t turn or adjust his body before the ball arrived in a hurry, and he helplessly headed it straight into his own goal as he desperately tried to send it clear.
20 minutes later, Jota made a perfectly timed run from deep in midfield and got on the end of a brilliant cross from Andrew Robertson. It was Jota’s fourth goal of the Premier League season, to go with four more in the UEFA Champions League, as he continues to prove a steal of a signing.
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Mane had a one-on-one chance to make it 3-0 just 10 minutes into the second half after he was slipped in behind the Leicester defense by a wonderful through ball from Milner. Schmeichel was, again, the only thing keeping Leicester alive.
With four minutes of regular time remaining and Leicester offering very little in terms of threat to claw their way back into the game, Firmino made it 3-0 and put the game to bed with an excellent header from Milner’s corner kick.