The personnel changes but the result remains the same, Liverpool dominate the ball but can’t score, at the other end they can’t defend in the air and concede goals.
In a move typical of the recent League Cup both teams picked strong but not full strength teams with Ulloa & Slimani starting up front for Leicester with Demarai Gray in the Mahrez role. For Liverpool Oxlade Chamberlain got his first start in a front 3 with Dom Solanke and prodigal son Coutinho. With the League encounter between these 2 set for the weekend this could have been cagey, Liverpool were not in the mood for that.
They made much the better start with Grujic and Coutinho probing and Solanke going close in the 6th minute with an angled drive following a corner. Andy Robertson got plenty of joy down the left and Liverpool’s high tempo start saw much of the opening period played in Leicester’s half with the Foxes front pair unable to get a foothold in the game.
Robertson was getting acres of space down the left and on 22 minutes his searching cross found Solanke but at full stretch the youngster couldn’t poke home. 4 minutes later Countinho fed Solanke who played in Robertson whose cross just evaded Coutinho- the goal was surely coming.
The one Leicester player causing Liverpool problems was Gray who was running rings around Flanagan on the few occasions he got the ball, but Leicester were being overrun and finding strange new ways to give the ball away, the worst culprit being Iborra who slammed the ball midway through his own half without a blue shirt in sight at the expense of a throw in.
Some tough challenging saw Leicester try to up their tempo but they almost paid for it on 39 minutes when they brought down Coutinho on the edge of the box, but the Brazilian couldn’t find his range with the invitingly placed free kick. In the final minute of the half the diminutive Brazilian danced along the edge of Leicester’s box to play in Solanke who couldn’t get an accurate shot off from a tight angle.
Coutinho was withdrawn at half time and the first move of the half came from Gray who was crudely stopped by Grujic but the youngster got far too much lift on the resulting free kick. At the other end Solanke continued to look dangerous with a shot on the swivel, from the resulting corner came the key moment in the game- Ulloa was floored by Oxlade Chamberlain’s corner and was replaced by Okazaki.
Gray continued to probe and produced a fine run and shot on 54 minutes whilst Liverpool lacked their earlier fluency without Coutinho, although his replacement Ben Woodburn provided plenty of pace and nuisance value to Leicester’s defence.
But on 65 minutes Okazaki gave Leicester a shock lead, a game of head tennis from a corner finally fell to Iborra and his cushioned header fell into the path of the Japanese international who wanted the ball past Ward 1-0. Liverpool almost found a quick response with Oxlaide Chamberlain sending a teasing free kick across the Leicester box, moments later Woodburn’s dipping shot grazed the Leicester goal.
On 73 minutes Danny Ings made his first appearance in 2 years following a career threatening knee injury and he showed the sharpness of his Burnley days by almost nipping onto a teasing ball just 3 minutes later. But on 78 minutes Okazaki held off some weak Liverpool challenges to play in Slimani who fired a rasping shot from the edge of the box 2-0.
With Liverpool committing bodies forward Gray was finding space to work in and another fine effort from the winger fell just wide of the post on 80 minutes. Liverpool looked increasingly ragged in the closing stages with another Gray break almost putting Slimani in for another but it finished 2-0.
For Liverpool it’s astonishing they failed to score (much like last Saturday) and the result will only ratchet up the pressure on Klopp. It’s a result that will also revive painful memories of Liverpool’s league defeat at the King Power 2 seasons ago when they again dominated the ball but were beaten by that stunning Jamie Vardy volley- will they ever learn?
On the night Leicester were fortunate but it was a much needed tonic after a tough run of fixtures in which they merited points against the Premier League’s super powers but came away empty handed.
As for this weekend’s rematch, surely Liverpool will find the back of the net, won’t they?