Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Liverpool wasted an opportunity to go seven points clear at the summit of the Premier League, having to settle for a 1-1 draw against Leicester on a snowy night at Anfield.
Sadio Mané opened the scoring in the opening moments of the game, but a Harry Maguire equaliser in first half injury time was enough for the former Champions to leave Anfield with a point.
Jürgen Klopp made two changes from the starting 11 that faced Crystal Palace. Xherdan Shaqiri returned to the attack and a fit-again Gini Wijnaldum filled in for Jordan Henderson in a defensive midfield role, after the skipper was forced into service at right-back.
Virgil van Dijk was also confirmed to be starting, despite reports earlier in the week that had deemed the imperious centre back a doubt.
Silence fell upon Anfield followed by thunderous applause as the capacity crowd showed their respects for Cardiff’s Emiliano Sala, and his pilot, David Ibbotson, who disappeared over the English Channel on January 21st.
Liverpool fans continued their applause through until kick off, and found themselves celebrating only two minutes into the contest.
Mané picked up the ball just outside the away penalty area and he found Andrew Robertson bombing up the left wing in typical fashion. The Scotsman looked to link up with Roberto Firmino, but the Brazilian couldn’t control the ball and saw it squirm through his legs.
Fortunately for the Reds, the loose ball found its way to their Senegalese hitman, who needed just one touch to set himself, before unleashing a curling effort round Kasper Schmeichel and into the bottom corner of the net. A perfect start for Klopp, with Leicester only getting one touch of the ball, before his league leaders took the lead.
Despite going behind early on, Leicester didn’t change their game plan, seemingly doing what most visiting teams have done at Anfield this season – sitting back and looking to hit the Reds on the counter.
Claude Puel’s tactics certainly looked to be working, as his side successfully soaked up the Liverpool pressure, whilst also looking dangerous whenever they advanced – with Liverpool causing trouble for themselves, particularly Alisson, who’s distribution in the first half was abysmal, gifting the ball to Leicester players twice at the edge of his own area.
Liverpool looked set to go into the half-time break 1-0 up, but despite only having 30% of possession, Leicester equalised in the final minute of injury time. A needless foul by Robertson gifted the visitors a final chance before the break.
The Reds were unable to clear the subsequent cross into the box, with Ben Chilwell heading a second ball over a static back line and into the path of Harry Maguire. The Englishmen was all alone in front of Alisson, half-volleying it into the bottom corner of the net, leaving the Brazilian keeper flat footed and silencing Anfield in the process.
Liverpool fans may feel aggrieved by the equaliser, as moments earlier Maguire appeared to escape with a yellow card for a tackle on Mané, despite being the last man. The decision wasn’t met with applause by the Anfield faithful, but the distance between the foul and the goal may just have saved the eventual goal-scorer.
Despite returning from the tunnel with a smile on his face, Klopp was soon screaming at his side following a brilliant Leicester chance which required Alisson to clear it off his goal-line. Klopp’s attention soon shifted to the match officials, as his side were denied a penalty despite Naby Keita being brought down in the area after bing clipped by Ricardo Pereira.
In an attempt to regain control of the game, Klopp turned to his substitutes, with Fabinho and Adam Lallana being called upon to try and swing the final 20 minutes of the game in Liverpool’s favour.
A lack of chances created saw Klopp again turn to his bench, this time calling upon Daniel Sturridge for the final minutes of the game, as the visitors seemed ready to settle for the point.
Despite the reinforcements, The Reds were unable to carve out another chance against a well drilled Leicester defence and were forced to settle for a solitary point, putting them five clear at the top of the League.
Although hardly a poor result, Liverpool will no doubt look at the game as a chance wasted to go seven points clear of Manchester City, after the reigning champions fell to defeat against Newcastle last night.
Liverpool will look to return to winning ways on Monday, when they travel down to London to take on West Ham United.