Saturday, September 10, 2016

FULL REPORT: Liverpool 4 VS Leicester 1

Anfield opened for business in style. After all the hype surrounding the opening of a £114m stand it fell to Liverpool’s players to demonstrate that they, not concrete, steel or glass, dictate the mood inside an expectant arena. “Fill it with life,” Jürgen Klopp had instructed and his team obliged on cue, filling Anfield with goals, incisiveness and optimism as Leicester City were condemned to a comprehensive pounding.

“What we did today is what I expect from us,” said Klopp. “I am really on the side of the players. They are responsible for our good performances and I am responsible for our bad performances. That is an easy deal. We have to see how often we can show it. This league is so unbelievably strong, so competitive and today we were good. We need to perform and have atmospheres like this not only against the champions or when we score four goals. We have to create our own atmosphere for ourselves and nobody else.”

Firmino delivered the opening ceremony that truly mattered with the first goal at the revamped stadium but the contribution of Sturridge, arguably only starting due to Philippe Coutinho’s international exertions for Brazil, was not lost on Anfield’s largest attendance since 1977. The England international tracked back diligently to halt a Leicester attack and intercepted for Simon Mignolet. Lucas Leiva, deputising for Dejan Lovren, who picked up a monstrous shiner after a clash of heads in training on Friday, found James Milner on the left and that was the signal for Firmino to lose Daniel Amartey with a piercing run. Milner delivered the required pass, the Brazilian cut inside Robert Huth and beat Kasper Schmeichel with an intelligent finish. The mood and flow of the game were transformed. “We started well but after the first goal we lost our counter and they played so, so well,” agreed Ranieri.
Mané was a devastating menace throughout and teed up Sturridge for a close-range shot that Schmeichel saved well. The Dane was powerless, however, when Sturridge returned the favour and Mané doubled Liverpool’s lead in thrilling fashion. Lucas, Firmino and Jordan Henderson were all involved as the Liverpool captain sent Sturridge clear with a measured chip over the top. The striker’s control was excellent, his second touch even better as he back-heeled inside for the unmarked Mané to scoop the ball over the Leicester goalkeeper’s despairing grasp and over the line.

Anfield purred over the comfortable lead but was left aghast by not one but two errors from Lucas. The makeshift centre-half mis-controlled a routine goal-kick from Mignolet and, with Shinji Okazaki closing in, compounded the error by clearing straight to Jamie Vardy. The striker accepted the gift from close range and Leicester almost equalised when Mignolet missed a long throw from Luis Hernández, a replacement for the hamstrung Danny Simpson, and Huth’s looping header landed on the top of the bar.

Ranieri tried to sharpen his attack with the introduction of Ahmed Musa, the £17m summer signing from CSKA Moscow, but Liverpool’s tireless and tricky front three monopolised the danger. Lallana, fresh from saving England in Slovakia, drove an unstoppable finish into the top corner following a neat lay-off from the impressive Georginio Wijnaldum. The fourth arrived in the final moments when Henderson, earlier guilty of a glaring miss, released Mané behind a square Leicester defence and a needless rush by Schmeichel. Mané unselfishly squared for Firmino to seal victory with a nonchalant finish.
There was a bizarre moment at 3-1 when, with the Kop singing his name, Klopp reacted furiously to the tribute and pointed to his watch to say the serenading was premature. His grievance may have been supported by Vardy breaking clear and forcing an important save from Mignolet but the manager’s concern was out of context with Liverpool’s dominance. “Please don’t sing my name before the game is decided,” he requested. “It is nice but not necessary.” It is also hard for supporters to resist with victories like this.


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