Steven Gerrard was the difference maker at the King Power Stadium where goals from himself, Lallana and Henderson cancelled out an early unlucky own goal by Mignolet and earned Liverpool a much needed victory. The Reds now seem to be on the right path out of their recent crisis with two back to back victories and more balance in their midfield. The Liverpool skipper answered his doubters in the best way possible: with a very fine display against a troubled Leicester City, who were reduced to 10 men just after the one hour mark.
Liverpool arrived in Leicester on top of the weekend’s last minute victory over Stoke and looked to confirm their change of fortunes after a run of poor results in November. Words like ‘crisis’ and ‘Rodgers out’ could be overheard in Merseyside recently, putting additional pressure on the Liverpool manager and his players and making it clear nothing less than three points from this game would be enough. However no team in the league finds themselves in a tougher position that their opponents. Nigel Pearson’s’ side have failed to win in the Premier League since beating Manchester United 5-3 back in September and scored for the first time in six games on Saturday against QPR.
After a balanced first 15 minutes, the first big chance of the game fell to Sterling after some neat football between Gerrard and Lambert. The forward’s low cross found Sterling on the move, he poked it past Schmeichel to finish into an empty net but was forced out of the shooting angle. On the other side of the park, Mignolet poured oil into the fire of his critics with a poor pass intercepted by Cambiasso 25 yards wide with the goal gaping but he sent his effort wide when he really should have scored. However, only a minute later Mahrez went on an adventure down the right flank from his own half, found Vardy inside the box behind the Liverpool defence and his strike was well saved by the advancing goalkeeper and then cleared off the line by Skrtel. Ulloa got to the free ball before it could go out for a corner, turned around and fired a low shot into the post which deflected off Mignolets back into the goal.
Liverpool, looking for an answer won a free kick on the left side five minutes later. Gerrard’s initial delivery was cleared, but was put back in the box by Lucas where Morgan beat Lambert to it but his header fell straight to Lallana who was the first to react and beat Schmeichel at the near post. The Reds could have gone ahead on 33 minutes when Gerrard’s corner was met by a powerful header by Skrtel, but De Laet cleared the ball off the line for Leicester.
Ten minutes after the break Liverpool did turn the game around when Gerrard found Sterling on the left. Wes Morgan got a slight touch on his low cross before Lambert, but the ball fell to the penalty spot where the Liverpool skipper was following up and there was never any doubt as he calmly slotted past two defenders and Schmeichel and went off to celebrate with the away fans. Things went bad to worse for The Foxes when their captain mishit a back pass to the keeper with Lambert pouncing on after 63 minutes. Morgan was left with little option but to pull Lambert down and as the last man was rightfully shown a straight red card from Lee Mason. The hosts did not put down their guns and focus on defending, despite being a man down with Mahrez dancing his way through from the right side and his powerful drive was parried by Mignolet, but only as far as Cambiasso who took a touch and fired the ball at goal. The shot took a deflection before hitting Vardy in front of goal and rolled out for a goal kick.
Minutes later, Henderson found Gerrard on the run well behind the Leicester defence, the Liverpool captain went a bit wide with his first touch to round the advancing goalkeeper, expecting Schmeichel to launch himself to his feet. The Dane however made no attempt to claim the ball and instead, stayed on his feet following the path of it. The two collided with Gerrard jumping up before contact and landing shoulder to shoulder with Schmeichel and both players hit the deck. Lee Mason decided there was no foul and let play continue, much to the disappointment of the Liverpool bench.
In the 83rd minute, another low cross by Gerrard from the left took a deflection off a Leicester defender and surprised Schmeichel who weakly parried to the feet of Sterling who followed up for the rebound, back heeled a pass to Henderson who was left with an easy task of firing home and wrapping up three important points for Liverpool and give them some momentum before their meeting with Sunderland at Anfield.
Leicester did not put on a bad performance and were unlucky not to take something from today’s encounter. They were beaten by a few unlucky deflections and touches, but need to get things going if they want to play in the top flight next season. Their next game against Aston Villa can be a good place to start building from before facing Manchester City back home in a game in which they will enter as underdogs.
Liverpool were more dominant in possession and had more directness; much of that credit should go to their skipper. It is quite incredible how much stick a player of his class is getting. He may not be in his twenties anymore, but he has great experience and leadership up his sleeve which no one will ever take from him. He is not able to play three games every week but his contribution to the team is unquestionable. He reminded everyone of that with his goal instinct arriving late in the box and slotting home a loose ball. He is an intelligent football player and prepared two dangerous positions for his teammates, one of them being a corner. He managed a 90% pass accuracy in the game, many of which came in the final third. You may question his age, but not his class or football intelligence. Both player and team can benefit if Gerrard is used well. Henderson and Coutinho did the running tonight and Lucas provided the defensive cover…and all of a sudden, Liverpool looked like a much more balanced side in midfield.