Premier League leaders Liverpool fail to press advantage in Leicester draw
Front runners in the league couldn’t find a way around lowly rivals to fully extend their lead
Liverpool failed to make the most of title rivals Manchester City’s defeat 24 hours earlier in a 1-1 draw with Leicester at Anfield on Wednesday.
Premier League leaders Liverpool would have gone seven points clear at the top of the table with a win over the Foxes.
They had to be content instead with just a five-point advantage over second-placed City, the reigning champions.
The match started in perfect fashion for Jurgen Klopp’s side as Sadio Mane scored Liverpool’s fastest league goal in nearly three years, with just two minutes on the clock.
But a Harry Maguire equaliser in first-half injury-time summed up the nervous state of affairs at the top of the table as Liverpool seek their first league title in 29 years.
The England defender was left unmarked, six yards out, and swept the ball home with all the know-how of a veteran striker after Wilfred Ndidi’s shot, following a James Maddison free-kick, had been blocked and Ben Chilwell guided the ball back into the area with a clever header.
Maguire’s goal stunned Anfield and was the culmination of a half which had started perfectly but which had seen the tension grow around the stadium as Liverpool looked for a vital second goal.
The first one, with 124 seconds on the clock, had certainly been impressive enough coming, as it did, at the end of a flowing, 30-pass move that left most of their opponents as interested by-standers, so efficient was Liverpool’s passing and movement.
Eventually, Andrew Robertson’s pass was touched on by Roberto Firmino and Mane had the space to curl a magnificent 12-yard finish into the bottom right-hand corner.
It was the start of a strong opening spell from Liverpool, with Firmino showing amazing skill to control a Mohamed Salah cross and drawing a diving save from Kasper Schmeichel before Mane headed wide from the resulting corner.
But Klopp would doubtless have been all too aware that Manchester City had, similarly, taken an early lead at Newcastle only to fall, eventually, to a shock defeat.
And the home supporters certainly seemed to share that concern as the half wore on without a second goal and Leicester capitalised on some uncertainty in the home defence, from Joel Matip above all others.
Not that Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson helped when his lazy kick was charged down by Jamie Vardy, Marc Albrighton crossed from the rebound and Maddison headed wide, unmarked at the far post, from all of two yards after 24 minutes.
Maguire was shown a yellow card, for fouling Mane on the counter-attack, much to the anger of the home crowd who wanted him to see red.
He then compounded his ‘crime’ in the eyes of the Liverpool supporters, by scoring the equaliser six minutes later.
His goal breathed belief into a Leicester side whose manager Claude Puel has come under increasing pressure following a recent dip in results.
Chilwell set up another chance for Maddison who failed to test the keeper and then Firmino was forced into a goal-line clearance from a powerful Maguire set-piece header, with Alisson then forced to save the ricochet off his team-mate.
Liverpool finally began to show some of their old attacking resolve and Naby Keita should have had a penalty when challenged from behind by Ricardo Pereira as he bore down on goal.
In an open and entertaining end to the game, a spirited Leicester break could have ended with far more than a poor Demarai Gray shot directly at Alisson, while Jordan Henderson’s cross picked out Firmino, whose ferocious drive was well parried by the diving Schmeichel.
Updated: January 31, 2019 08:03 AM