Leicester knock wasteful Liverpool out of League Cup
Experimental visitors dominate possession and chances but Leicester score the goals
Leicester City’s Shinji Okazaki scores their first goal. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters
Leicester City 2 Liverpool 0
There is no respite for Jürgen Klopp at the moment. After declaring the previous week had been his most frustrating since he took over at Anfield, the Liverpool manager endured more of the same as Leicester City exposed the brittle confidence in a team who ought to have been out of sight at half-time, yet finished the game trying to make sense of another damaging result.
The Carabao Cup is anything but a priority for Klopp, especially given the demands of the Champions League, but it still felt alarming to see Liverpool, for whom Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his first start since joining from Arsenal, inexplicably lose their way in the second half. Philippe Coutinho’s departure at half-time did not help, and Leicester, after a woeful first 45 minutes in which they were completely outplayed, took full advantage.
Shinji Okazaki was the game changer. The forward came off the bench to score the first, after Leicester won a game of head tennis in the Liverpool area, and then set up the second for Islam Slimani, whose wonderful left-footed drive from just outside the area arrowed into the top corner. What a turnaround from the first half.
With so many alterations to the weekend starting XIs – Liverpool made eight changes and Leicester seven – it was tempting to wonder what sort of game would be served up, yet the truth is that one side looked totally at ease from the outset and the other played as if they had never met each other before.
Liverpool were completely in control in the opening 45 minutes, dominating possession and carving Leicester open time and again to such an extent that it was something of a mystery as to how they failed to score in that period. Klopp looked as perplexed and frustrated as anyone as chance after chance went begging. More often than not they were created as a result of a raid down the Liverpool left, where Andrew Robertson wreaked havoc up against Daniel Amartey, Leicester’s makeshift right-back.
It was Robertson’s cross that Oxlade-Chamberlain would have converted in the sixth minute but for Ben Chilwell’s timely intervention and that early attack set the tone for what followed as Liverpool laid siege to the Leicester goal. Coutinho, twisting and turning on the edge of the area, saw his shot parried by Ben Hamer six minutes later. Then Robertson delivered another centre from the left that Dominic Solanke, who was slightly off balance as he stretched to reach the ball, volleyed over.
In a rare Leicester attack, Demarai Gray skipped around Jon Flanagan, who was making his first Liverpool appearance in 16 months, before normal service resumed. Coutinho, running on to Marko Grujic’s header, fed Solanke, whose blocked shot ran into the path of Robertson. With the angle against him, the left-back tried to steer the ball into the far corner with the outside of his boot but his effort deflected off Wes Morgan and ran behind.
Solanke, making his full Liverpool debut in what was also his first start in club football in England, then had another opportunity just before the interval. Running the game with his graceful touches and clever movement, Coutinho conjured up a delightful pass that released the striker inside the penalty area. Solanke succeeded in lifting the ball over Hamer but his lob also cleared the crossbar and Leicester were granted another reprieve.
That pass, however, proved to be Coutinho’s final contribution as the Brazilian made way at half-time for Ben Woodburn. Leicester simply had to improve – and they did. Gray drifted inside, skipped away from Ragnar Klavan with a neat turn and unleashed a low left-footed shot that slid narrowly wide of Danny Ward’s far post.
Liverpool were no longer having everything their own way, partly due to Coutinho’s absence and also down to the fact that Leicester, aided by the introduction of the industrious Okazaki, had started to play with much more belief and conviction. Their reward soon followed in the shape of the opening goal.
Chilwell, picking up the ball midway inside the Liverpool half after Marc Albrighton’s corner was only half-cleared, delivered a diagonal cross that Morgan headed across the area. Vicente Iborra, making his Leicester debut, intelligently nodded the ball down for Okazaki, who took a touch before drilling a shot that deflected off Robertson and beyond Ward. Slimani, running on to Okazaki’s pass, then put the game beyond Liverpool with a quite brilliant second.