Liverpool survive Leicester

Liverpool survive Leicester scare to maintain perfect start

Jurgen Klopp could not have asked for a better start to the season. The Liverpool manager has seen his side win each of their first four Premier League fixtures of the 2018/19 campaign, with Saturday’s success at Leicester City making it 12 points from a possible 12 for the Merseysiders.

There were plenty of things Klopp would not have been overly pleased with at the weekend, though; the Reds may have emerged from the King Power Stadium with a 2-1 victory, but their performance was sloppy for long periods and the outcome could have been very different had the Foxes, minus star striker Jamie Vardy, shown more of a clinical edge in front of goal.

Liverpool began brightly and dominated the opening exchanges, with Mohamed Salah uncharacteristically spurning a golden opportunity to break the deadlock early on. Sadio Mane made no mistake when he found himself through on goal soon after, the Senegal international finding the back of the net for the fourth time this season after being picked out by Andrew Robertson, but the Reds dropped off midway through the first half as Leicester fought their way back into the game.

The hosts’ pressing from the front resulted in a few shaky moments at the back for Liverpool, who were fortunate that their opponents’ final ball was inconsistent for much of the opening 45 minutes. Leicester’s failing in that regard was then punished on the stroke of half-time, as Roberto Firmino nodded home after losing his marker from a James Milner corner.

A two-goal lead flattered the visitors, but Leicester regrouped at the interval and came flying out of the traps at the start of the second period. Wes Morgan missed a fantastic chance to halve the deficit as the Foxes pinned Liverpool back in their own half of the field, before Joe Gomez was forced to make an outstanding last-ditch block to deny James Maddison.

Leicester finally had their reward in the 63rd minute when Kelechi Iheanacho robbed Alisson of possession inside the area and teed up Rachid Ghezzal. It was the first goal Liverpool have conceded this term and Klopp will have been disappointed that it was entirely preventable, with the Reds’ new No.1 taking an unncecessary risk in a dangerous area when he had plenty of time to clear the ball down the line. At the same time, it was no less than Leicester deserved.

Claude Puel’s charges ultimately fell short in their search for an equaliser, but Liverpool could have done a better job of managing the match having established a two-goal advantage at the midway point. They struggled to hold possession to take the sting out of the game, instead allowing Leicester to build up a head of steam and sustain attacks. Had they shown greater efficiency Klopp’s side could have added a third on the counter-attack, but if anything they looked to hit Leicester on the break too often, which led to them ceding the initiative and unnecessarily stretching the play.

“I think it was a deserved win, we had a brilliant start to the game,” Klopp said after the final whistle. “We played really good football and attacked them in the right way – we were there in half-spaces and were flexible. We created chances, big chances.

“It got a bit more difficult as the pitch got drier – we should not be influenced by that, but we were today to be honest – and then we scored the second before the half-time whistle, which is of course good.

“But it was clear this game was not decided and we had to do better in the second half, and we did not. We controlled the game a bit deeper, we had the counter-attacks and did not finish them off.”

It was a generous – if completely understandable – interpretation of the game, but the former Borussia Dortmund head coach is right to be delighted with his side’s points return after the first month of the season. There is, however, still work to do if Liverpool are to launch a sustained title tilt for the first time since 2013/14.

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