'On fire' Liverpool respond in style to injury crisis
|(Jonny Evans 21-og, Diogo Jota 41, Roberto Firmino 86)|
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp hailed the Reds' response to an injury crisis that left him without eight first-team regulars as a dominant 3-0 win over Leicester City moved the English champions level on points with leaders Tottenham Hotspur.
Klopp was without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through injury, while top scorer Mohamed Salah was absent due to a positive coronavirus test.
However, the Reds swept aside a Leicester team who had started the weekend on top of the table to set a new club record of 64 league games unbeaten at Anfield.
“Very (satisfying), because we deserved it 100 per cent,” said Klopp. “The boys played an incredible game against a top opponent.
“Playing them like that tonight, I do not take for granted. The boys were on fire.”
James Milner again proved his worth as a utility man as the 34-year-old filled in at right-back and midfield after another injury to Naby Keita in the second half.
Milner also provided two assists from corners as from his delivery, Jonny Evans’ scored an own goal to open the floodgates.
Diogo Jota then became the first Liverpool player to score in his first four home league games when he headed home Andy Robertson’s inch-perfect cross.
Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal kept the score down as he made a series of second-half saves, notably from Sadio Mane and Jota, while Evans had a lucky escape as the post prevented him from scoring a second own goal.
Roberto Firmino thought he had been denied just his third league goal in 24 games when the Brazilian’s shot came back off the post and his follow-up was cleared by Marc Albrighton with just 10 millimetres of the ball not over the line.
But Firmino rounded off a brilliant team performance by rising highest to meet another Milner corner.
“What people say about him is ridiculous,” said Klopp, responding to calls for Firmino to be dropped for Jota when Salah returns.
“You cannot be closer to the goal than he was tonight.
“It was exactly the right goalscorer. We were so happy for him, he played outstanding tonight.”
Another muscle injury suffered by Keita was the only negative for Klopp on a night when his side showed they will not give up their title defence easily despite losing centre-backs van Dijk and Gomez for the rest of the season.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has now lost all three meetings against his former club and just like the previous meeting between the sides, which Liverpool won 4-0 in December, the Foxes were shown the gulf they have to bridge to become title contenders.
The end to a six-game winning run sees Leicester fall back to fourth, two points off the top.
“First-half we were too passive in our play,” said Rodgers. “To concede two goals from set-plays is disappointing.”
Before kick-off, Liverpool paid tribute to former goalkeeper Ray Clemence, who died aged 72 after a long battle with prostate cancer this week.
Alisson wore a replica of Clemence’s jersey from the 1981 European Cup final win over Real Madrid in the warm-up, while his former teammates Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush paid their respects from the stands.
And two of Liverpool’s greatest ever players also got the chance to show their appreciation to the current crop, who surpassed the club record they helped set in 63 unbeaten home league games between 1978 and 1981.
Klopp’s men remain unbeaten at Anfield in the EPL since April 2017. – AFP