Depleted Liverpool dominate Leicester to set new Anfield record
Firmino and Diogo Jota score as champions win with ease despite missing key players
Roberto Firmino scored Liverpool’s third goal in another impressive victory. Photograph: Inpho
Liverpool 3 Leicester 0
A moment of history for Liverpool represented an ominous warning for the future to their Premier League rivals. Leicester arrived at Anfield with genuine designs on the top of the table but were comprehensively outclassed by a Liverpool team missing three-quarters of its first choice defence, captain Jordan Henderson and leading goalscorer Mohamed Salah.
Jürgen Klopp’s team made it 64 home league games without defeat – surpassing the club record set between 1978 and 1981 – courtesy of a comical own goal from Jonny Evans, another for Diogo Jota and a late header from Roberto Firmino. Brendan Rodgers’ supposedly in-form side were never allowed to show up. They were harried, out-manoeuvred and exposed throughout by the Premier League champions. A lengthy injury list – which Naby Keïta joined here – shows no sign of undermining their superiority.
Liverpool paid tribute before kick-off to Ray Clemence, in many eyes the finest goalkeeper ever to play for the club, who died last Sunday aged 72. The current goalkeeping team laid a wreath behind the Kop goal while Alisson warmed up in a replica of Clemence’s jersey from the 1981 European Cup final. The shirt will be signed by the entire Liverpool team and auctioned to raise funds for prostate cancer research.
Not for the first time this season, the defence in front of Alisson was disrupted by injury with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez joining Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines. And, once again, any weaknesses that lurked in a much-changed Liverpool defence were hidden by the sheer quality that the champions possess elsewhere. Not that Klopp’s back line was too shabby with Fabinho returning from a hamstring injury to partner Joël Matip in central defence and James Milner deputising for Alexander-Arnold at right-back.
Liverpool’s productivity in that department did not cease in the absence of the England international. It was Milner’s corner that created the breakthrough against a passive and careless Leicester side.
Liverpool were sharper, more aggressive and assertive from the first whistle. Sadio Mané headed into the side-netting from a Milner corner after barely two minutes. Curtis Jones drew the first save of the evening from Kasper Schmeichel when, collecting Keïta’s fine pass into the area, his angled drive was blocked by the keeper at his near post. Jones produced another fine display on the right of Liverpool’s midfield three, demonstrating on his second Premier League start of the season that he is in the side on merit and not out of necessity.
The midfielder’s movement, accuracy in possession and sense of responsibility belied his teenage years and helped Liverpool dominate the first half. Leicester were rarely able to release Jamie Vardy and their formation resembled more of an overly cautious 5-4-1 as they were pressed into submission.
That said, the visitors presented Liverpool with the lead when Evans unwittingly back-headed Milner’s corner past his own goalkeeper at close range. The Northern Ireland international was more preoccupied with Mané than the flight of the ball as he grappled with the striker inside his six-yard area. By the time Evans sensed the danger it was too late. Schmeichel was already beaten by his thumping own goal.
Leicester struggled with Liverpool’s set-pieces throughout. Matip headed over from an Andy Robertson corner and was also left unmarked when the full-back floated a free-kick into the area moments later. Matip’s header sailed towards the back post where Firmino was unable to convert with a flying leap.
An outstanding team goal from open play produced Liverpool’s second, however. “Be aggressive, be aggressive” yelled Schmeichel as Marc Albrighton attempted to close down Robertson when he collected a cross-field pass from Jones. The goalkeeper’s warning went unheeded. Robertson ghosted past his marker and whipped a delightful left wing cross into the area where Jota, stealing in ahead of Christian Fuchs, beat Schmeichel with a perfectly-placed glancing header.
In the process, the Portugal international became the first player in Liverpool’s history to score in each of his first four home games in the top flight.
Leicester’s threat was fleeting but they should have levelled two minutes after Evans’ own goal when Harvey Barnes sent Vardy scurrying clear down the left. The striker’s pull-back returned invitingly for Barnes only for the midfielder to sidefoot wastefully wide. James Justin was closer with a curling effort from the edge of the area and Alisson saved at Vardy’s feet in the second half - the striker was offside from James Maddison’s free-kick anyway - but the visitors created little.
They were second best throughout and fortunate to escape further punishment.
Schmeichel produced a superb one-handed save from Mané when the Senegal international was clean through on goal. Fuchs headed off the line before Jota could convert the rebound. The keeper also denied Jota twice, and Evans almost scored another own goal when he headed against his own post attempting to clear from the second save, while the woodwork somehow prevented Firmino adding a third.
Having spun away from Wesley Fofana on the 18-yard line, the Brazilian beat Schmeichel with a low drive that struck the inside of the far post. The rebound struck Firmino and was headed for goal until Albrighton just managed to clear on the line, but only as far as Mané whose scuffed shot also hit the post via the goalkeeper before dropping back into Schmeichel’s arms.
But Firmino and Liverpool could not be denied completely. With four minutes remaining, from another Milner corner, the striker soared above Cengiz Under to head into Schmeichel’s bottom right hand corner. - Guardian