Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Two on the trot as Reds slays Foxes

Liverpool won their second successive match for the first time since October on Tuesday evening.

Building on their 1-0 victory at home to Stoke City on the weekend, the Reds came from behind to seal a 3-1 win at Leicester City’s King Power stadium thanks to goals from Lallana, Gerrard and Henderson.

Still far from their best, Liverpool laboured at points and Leicester remained in with a shout until Henderson’s strike seven minutes from time, but, at the end of the day, getting three points is all that matters. Improved displays will come with time as the Reds’ confidence grows but, right now, Brendan Rodgers’ side cannot afford to be too picky as to how they go about winning games.   

Skipper Steven Gerrard returned to the starting line-up after being rested against Stoke and put in a decent display in an advanced role in which he is clearly more at home. His strike soon after the restart was crucial, and he obviously enjoyed celebrating it in front of the travelling Kop.

Behind him, Lucas put in another accomplished performance. The defensive solidity he brings and the fact that his presence frees Gerrard to play further up the pitch presents a convincing case for the Brazilian’s inclusion on a more regular basis.

Raheem Sterling, meanwhile, is slowly recapturing his form and probably posed Liverpool’s greatest attacking threat, although he squandered a great chance to open the scoring after a quarter of an hour when his heavy touch took him away from goal as he tried to round Kasper Schmeichel from close range. Attempting a delicate chip over the keeper and into the net may have been the better option.

At the other end, Simon Mignolet was a liability. On 19 minutes he nonsensically passed the ball straight to Cambiasso. Thankfully, the 34-year old former Real Madrid and Inter Milan midfielder proved that he is past his best by somehow rolling a shot past the post from 30 yards with the goal gaping.

It was a massive let off for Mignolet, but his evening went from bad to worse two minutes later when he netted an own goal. Admittedly, there was nothing that he could do about it, as Ulloa’s shot rebounded off the post, hit the back of the Belgian’s head and rolled into the net following a frenetic build up to the goal, which included Skrtel’s headed clearance off the line. However, the number 22 has a lot to do to dissuade Rodgers from entering the transfer market for another stopper in January.

Importantly, Liverpool responded quickly through Adam Lallana. Under pressure from Lambert, Wasilewski headed Lucas’ cross only as far as the former Southampton midfielder, who did well to keep his sweet strike down, firing low into the net to level the scoreline only five minutes after the hosts had gone ahead.

Mignolet was Liverpool's worst performer

Lallana levelled quickly with a good goal
Unfortunately, the Reds failed to build any momentum from that equaliser, Sterling’s lung-bursting 20-yard solo run, which ended with him handling the ball on the floor after being crowded out by Leicester’s defence, the closest they came to taking the lead before the break.

In fact, the Foxes were arguably in the ascendancy, and unquestionably started the second half on top, immediately testing Liverpool’s troubled defence, which did just about enough to retain parity until Steven Gerrard scored against the run of play on 53 minutes.

However, Liverpool required the self-destruction of Leicester captain Wes Morgan to gain the upper hand in the game. First, his poor clearance from Sterling’s cross fell perfectly for the on-rushing Gerrard, who calmly picked his spot and slotted home. 

Gerrard is better utilised higher up the pitch
Then, just under ten minutes later he took Lambert down as the tall striker latched onto his under-hit back pass. As he was in on goal, referee Lee Mason had no choice but to send Morgan off.

At that point, Liverpool should have been firmly in the supremacy and used the rest of the match to increase their confidence by bagging a couple of goals. Instead, if anything Leicester seemed to be even more dominant with ten men than they were with a full complement of players.

On more than one occasion chaos ensued in the Liverpool area as the Reds fought hard to hold on to their lead. Cambiasso’s shot was inadvertently blocked by teammate Vardy, before Vardy’s strike was deflected just past Mignolet’s left hand post by Skrtel as Liverpool lived life on the edge.

At the other end, Schmeichel was fortunate not to concede a penalty after taking down Gerrard in the penalty area, although the number eight admittedly appeared to be attempting to win a spot kick. It was a tough but probably correct call in the end by Lee Mason.

Seven minutes from time, Jordan Henderson exploited an error by Kasper Schmeichel to make sure of the victory. The son of Manchester United legend Peter failed to deal with Gerrard’s cross, allowing Sterling to superbly back heel the ball to Henderson, who turned home from close range with ease.

Henderson's celebration was bizarre
The final goal summed up the match quite well. Although it was a fairly even contest between two struggling teams, Liverpool made slightly fewer individual errors and Leicester failed to capitalise on the ones that they did make. Conversely, the hosts’ numerous mistakes were punished by the visitors, who displayed a clinical nature in front of goal often lacking in recent displays, scoring from all three of their shots on target.

Compared to last season, this wasn’t a great win, as it was far from pretty. However, in the context of the current campaign, this was a hugely important victory and, should the Reds go on to beat Sunderland and Basel in their next two fixtures at Anfield, they’ll enter their titanic lash at Old Trafford in mid-December in the perfect manner.


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