Leicester City 1-2 Liverpool: Klopp's men maintain winning start despite sluggish performance

Leicester City 1-2 Liverpool: Klopp's men maintain winning start despite sluggish performance

Liverpool's most stringent test of the season so far was passed, but only just thanks to first-half strikes from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, writes Oliver Miller at Kingpower Stadium

Oliver Miller

A bright and breezy lunchtime brought about a rather odd football match as Liverpool edged Leicester City 2-1 at the King Power Stadium.

It was a game that baring the opening 15 minutes and a few second-half spells Leicester dominated. Having returned from their opening day defeat with victory over Wolves and Southampton, Liverpool represented an upgraded challenge but a winnable one.

Leicester have not been a team to crumble against a bigger opponent recently. Their display on the opening night of the season was promising albeit ended in defeat to Manchester United. The prospect of ending Liverpool’s unbeaten start was possible. And yet despite dominating for much of the match, they couldn’t as pre-match strikes from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Pre-match indications had suggested that this would be Liverpool’s most testing match of the season so far and so it proved. Leicester exposed vulnerabilities in Jürgen Klopp’s team while demonstrating that they are a dangerous outfit themselves. Liverpool hinted at fragility last weekend when seeing through an edgy win against Brighton, and it returned to an extent here.

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Leicester let-off in the opening few minutes

Liverpool started with pace and purpose. A directness that when facing the deep-lying Brighton was not easy to muster. Mohamed Salah let both Harry Maguire and Roberto Firmino off the hook in the opening five minutes; it was Maguire’s poor header that allowed Liverpool to bear down on the Leicester goal but Firmino saw his tame shot saved by Kasper Schmeichel and then Salah put a straightforward finish from the rebound wide of the post.

However, it only took five further minutes for the visitors to take the lead in earnest. The hard work and tenacity of Andrew Robertson on the left side was too much for Ricardo Pereira and Maguire and the Liverpool left-back was able to pass to Sadio Mane on the edge of the area who slammed the ball past Schmeichel.

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Liverpool's defensive resolve frustrates Foxes

Leicester’s rather high defensive line did keep Liverpool at bay but any Leicester possession was minimal as the visitors won the ball back within seconds of losing it. The test was appearing more like a doddle as Liverpool circulated the ball for the next quarter of an hour. Alisson was tested, however, halfway through the first-half following the host’s best period of play.

James Maddison, who was Leicester’s star player on debut at Old Trafford at the start of the season, spearheaded Leciester’s attack and Demarai Gray – filling in for the suspended Jamie Vardy upfront – shot into the bottom corner but Alisson got down and saved with a strong hand.

Liverpool remained sturdy as Leicester struggled to break them down when in possession. A second Liverpool goal on the verge of half-time only highlighted Klopp’s sides’ clinicalness and Leicester’s careless minds.  James Milner curled a corner to the near post from the right, it bypassed Joe Gomez but Firmino found space and headed fiercely into the bottom right corner.

Hosts get a foothold

Leicester, possibly aggrieved with being two goals down despite a decent showing, started the second-half dominating possession. Gomez made a vital block from a shot by Maddison after the Leicester midfielder skipped past Virgil van Dijk, who was booked soon afterwards for resorting to a trip to stop him. Minds and bodies were being tested to a greater degree but it was a mistake they brought on themselves that allowed Leicester back into the match.

Van Dijk, being pressed back, sent an awkward backpass to the left of Alisson’s goal but the goalkeeper shunned the opportunity to clear his lines and instead tried to dummy his way past substitute Iheanacho. The result was Alisson on his backside and Rachid Ghezzal finishing into an empty net. It was quite a way to concede their first league goal of the season.

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Reds close out hard-fought victory

As Leicester continued to build menacingly Klopp made a pair of changes replacing the sluggish Salah with Xherdan Shaqiri and restoring Naby Keita to midfield in place of Henderson whose return had been problematic. The Guinean had been missed and soon helped to steady the visitors.

They held on to their lead and passed the test just. However, travelling back home from a stadium that always brings about a struggle, the win must be cherished but also the realisation that improvement is needed to be at the top of the table until the end of the season will be apparent.