Leicester post match review by @cashboyle

The Kop Table Interview

Peter Phillips gets the thoughts of Caislin Boyle on the excellent win against Leicester:

Hi Caislin what was your thoughts on this win on Saturday?

That was my favourite win this season – better than Arsenal, Spartak and Swansea combined. Why? Because if didn’t look likely. It didn’t look likely that we’d see out the game when poised at 2-1. Leicester launched a series of aerial bombardments which presented opportunities for our defence to momentarily switch off. It’s happened before but it didn’t happen this time. Big Virgil in the ground obviously had some kind of hoodoo effect on proceedings – what began as a sloppy defensive performance ended as a resolute one and that’s what is most pleasing. We’ve got a top new defender, 7 points from 9 in the festive period and are 3 points off United.

This game (in my opinion) looked the trickiest on paper. I know people will cite away games to Arsenal and Burnley, but this one was an expected win – a pressure we don’t always withstand well. I could revise this view if Burnley pump us on New Year’s Day, but for now I’m delighted we scraped a win against a Leicester side with the pace and guile to hurt us.

In terms of lineups, the Fab Four all started. We also got a Karius start, which was one game too late for some Liverpool fans. Lovren, Gomez, Milner all started in 5 changes for the Reds. I don’t know about everyone else, but I love this level of rotation. I don’t think it breeds disruption, it breeds competition. For Leicester, Vardy played and that’s all I really noticed given his good record against us. The midfield combination of Ndidi and Iborra had the potential to threaten, so I kept note of that. Overall Leicester made 4 changes.

The opening period couldn’t have gone worse. Matip made a pass that nobody wanted and Leicester took full advance. The pass sold Can short and Iborra hit a first time pass to Mahrez who crossed for Vardy to tap home. The concerning aspect of this was that there was ample time for Matip to recover – two further passes had to reach their target before Vardy could score and Matip should certainly stop the ball reaching Vardy. Whether early game rust or symptomatic of Matip’s second season form, this was a sloppy piece of play. He should, at the very least, be goal side of Vardy.

That goal preceded a period of dominance by Liverpool, where I counted 5 chances which could or should have made the net bulge. The first was from King Mo, Firmino slipped the ball to Mane who hit a perfect cross to Salah. His first touch was sumptuous, making Fuchs look very silly. The eventual shot just went past the post, with all the hard work done.

The next chance came for Milner from a good give and go with Bobby, and Milner’s clever run round the back was snuffed out by Schmeichel. Milner, yet to score this season, scored himself to be a willing runner in that instance.

The next chance was actually scored, albeit illegally as Mane tapped in from an offside position. Robertson provided us with a reminder of his attacking abilities by delivering a trademark pinpoint cross, which Mane duly finished. It was however, rightly ruled out for offside.

Another chance came for Salah which he attempted to poke into the net. The build up play again was exemplary, with Firmino doing unselfish work yet again. A one-two with Firmino saw Salah speed in behind, but his poked finish was too forceful. Klopp applauded on the sideline, content in the knowledge that his side were doing all the right things.

The next opportunity was for the unselfish Bobby, who marauded through the defence following a crunching Milner challenge that won back possession. His toe poke was saved by Schmeichel and probably showed him a little too much of the ball. Signs remained encouraging, however.

The next chance was speculative, but I’m going to include it anyway as I love Joe Gomez. He chested down a ball and unleashed a volley which went just wide and slightly high. It would’ve certainly been a collectors item and it excites us fans who want to see Gomez try to up his offensive output.

The goal came early in the second half, and it was scored by the King of the world Mo Salah. Mane showed great awareness to back heel the ball into his path, and Salah took out Fuchs and Amartey before rifling home. Defenders must be sick of Mo making them look amateur. I want to discuss Mane’s role here – for a player deemed woefully out of form that back heel showed class and confidence. It was a timely reminder that his decision making isn’t entirely shot, nor is his self belief and he will definitely get back to where he was.

1-1 and the Reds smelt blood. After some minor Leicester pressure where Vardy skinned Lovren and Gomez but had his resultant shot blocked, Liverpool countered with three of the Fab Four. Firmino passed to Coutinho who hit a beautiful first time ball over the top to Salah who lifted it just over Schmeichel.

Coutinho used the scoop method once more to put Mane in, who scored another offside goal. This one was also fairly ruled out – optimists among us laughed that Mane was just getting his range. He’ll come good, promise.

Leicester then had a chance that came from a Fuchs/Delap long throw. A Maguire flick on went to Ndidi who hit a powerful effort just past the Liverpool post. Karius (a virtual spectator) could’ve done nothing about it had that went in.

Coutinho stung the palms of Schmeichel following a move involving Firmino, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Coutinho. The little Brazilian wasn’t at his absolute best yesterday but maybe that’s because he was annoyed at Nike selling shirts with his number on as though he’s already been sold to Barcelona.

The second goal finally came, and what a strike. Milner plays a lovely back heel to Salah who rolls Maguire with an unerring simplicity. Maguire was much too tight but with Mo no defender ever really wins, whether you play him tight or loose. Once he had wriggled free of Maguire there was only one outcome. Goal! 2-1 to the Reds and time to see it out.

The rest of the game was scary, I spent most of it shouting ‘get rid of it’ in response to Liverpool defending which I didn’t consider sufficiently emphatic. Nonetheless, they did do enough because Leicester couldn’t score as we did the league double over them this season.

In terms of talking points, Matip is one. Some say the presence of a vocal centre half (VVD) will aid him, others argue he’s just not that great and his form this season reflects that. I’m of the view that he does need a vocal partner, and he and Virgil are our two best ball playing centre backs. Long term we all want to see Gomez at centre back, but I only see that as part of a back three as Klopp will be loathe not to play his two top choices. Regardless, a previously weak area of the pitch looks unequivocally  stronger. Virgil will improve the defence because of his presence, but should also improve the defence by improving its other members. I’m very excited for some turgid 0-0 draws in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Otherwise I would like to briefly discuss Milner, who I thought had a great game yesterday. I think his level of performance makes us not miss Henderson, as Milner shares his athleticism, passing ability and work rate. This period of absence will enable Milner to feature more which will help us. It’s no coincidence that a dogged 2-1 win came with him in the side, especially after he had demanded we become more ‘boring’ after the Arsenal draw.

Onto Burnley – Up the boring Reds!