Football Features

Two-way Spurs title race taking shape? Second-string stars answer big questions in Liverpool 3-0 Leicester City

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 21:55, 22 November 2020

Liverpool maintained their perfect start at home in the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win over Leicester City.

Jurgen Klopp’s men came into this weekend’s showdown having already brushed Leeds United, Arsenal, Sheffield United and West Ham aside, while registering 11 goals and conceding six.

A stern examination was expected given Leicester’s imperious form on the road but it turned out to be another humbling experience for ex-Reds boss Brendan Rodgers on his second Anfield return since leaving in October 2015.

Confidence was high following their opening four away games — against West Brom, Manchester City, Arsenal and Leeds — which saw the Foxes pick up all three points on each occasion as well as proving to be difficult to breach. This evening’s showdown, which was always going to end with someone’s 100% record falling by the wayside, couldn’t have been a more contrasting affair.

The pre-match conversation was dominated by talks of how Liverpool would fare without talismanic figure Mohamed Salah as well as flying right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, but they are now made of sterner stuff, and these battle-hardened individuals under Klopp’s leadership were hellbent on ensuring it wasn’t going to be them dropping points as history beckoned.

By avoiding defeat they’ve now gone 64 matches at Anfield without taking an ‘L’, which is the second-longest unbeaten home run in English top-flight history behind Chelsea, who notched 84 games between March 2004 and October 2008.

A changed back-four that featured Joel Matip and Fabinho in central defence plus the multifunctional, James Milner deputising for Alexander-Arnold, will have given their visitors impetuous designs, but such is Klopp’s panache for organisation and structure they seldom got behind to pose Alisson uncomfortable questions.

Matip, who returned to Liverpool’s starting lineup just before the international break, was untouchable in the air in winning no fewer than five aerial duels, three fewer than his teammates combined. Milner provided the Reds a solid outpost on the flank, where his passing was exemplary, and the cross he put in from a 21st minute corner led to the deadlock broken when Jonny Evans inadvertently headed past a rooted Kasper Schmeichel.

He’d repeat the same trick minutes from time but on this occasion Roberto Firmino, desperate for a goal, was on the receiving end, much to his manager’s delight. The Brazilian’s struggles in front of goal at Anfield were well-documented, but he’s now scored twice across Liverpool’s last three home matches. No doubt this evening will boost his confidence heading into the winter months.

Back to Evans; it was a painful moment for the ex-Manchester United defender, who has now unfortunately produced six own goals in Premier League history; to put that in some perspective, only Richard Dunne (10), Jamie Carragher (7) and Martin Skrtel (7) sit ahead of him in that unwanted table.

Robertson, buoyed after helping Scotland end a 23-year absence from a major international tournament, wasn’t going to be outshone by Milner though and Diogo Jota was grateful for the precsie ball that he converted just before the break. It was a record-breaking strike for the Portuguese forward, who initially joined Liverpool from Wolves as a squad player.

The former Atlético Madrid man had started in three of Liverpool’s previous seven Premier League matches, completing the full 90 minutes twice, going into matchday nine. Interestingly, he failed to net in both of those games he played every second, although neither were at home. And that’s significant here, because all of his three league goals, against different opponents, in a Reds jersey have all come on Anfield’s hallowed turf. This left Jota on the cusp of a special milestone, and by scoring this evening he becomes the first player in Liverpool’s illustrious history to score in each of his opening four top-flight home matches.

History aside, Jota already feels to be a good piece of business, Salah’s absence was hardly felt. That is a positive sign for Klopp in his quest to secure back-to-back championships, as there is always that lingering doubt over the club’s back-up players and whether any disruption to Liverpool’s strongest eleven could be their undoing. Jota, stationed on the right wing, never looked out of place as he made those scything runs behind we often see Salah make on numerous occasions.

Sadio Mane, the only member of Liverpool’s front three not to score, was still his busy self and on another day would have registered. His performance didn’t go unnoticed, with Sky Sports pundit Patrice Evra waxing lyrical over the Senegalese international. “Like I say: No Mané, No Party. He can destroy any player,” he said after the game.

Liverpool’s main man could feature against Brighton & Hove Albion at The Amex, which should be a welcome sight in what is shaping up to be a fascinating Premier League season. After the first quarter round of games, the champions’ biggest rivals seem to be the team led by that old foe, Jose Mourinho.

Tottenham and the Reds are locked on 20 points, with Chelsea a further two behind, but it’s Spurs that lead the way courtesy of their superior goal-difference. Going to battle is nothing new concerning both, as they fought over the European Cup two seasons ago. Maybe that’ll be the deciding factor, Klopp and company know how to get it done, whereas Mourinho’s team feel like a side on the rise.

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