The Good, Bad and Ugly: Liverpool beat Leicester in odd fashion. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Núñez spurned chances, but one ‘weakness’ never materialised at Anfield.
Liverpool have moved to within two points of the Champions League places thanks to a triumph in bizarre circumstances, with two own goals proving sufficient. Yet more woe in front of goal for Darwin Núñez went unpunished as Jürgen Klopp’s side extended a fledgling winning streak.
Mohamed Salah, too, missed at least one very presentable opportunity, with the visiting defence proving the most adept at putting the ball in the back of the net. But at the other end, one man in particular held firm for Liverpool, belying an apparent ‘weakness’.
On the whole, Liverpool will not be picky with how wins come, and may well feel they are owed some luck after some of the fine margins that have gone against them in recent months and years. But sooner or later, performances will need to improve if results are going to continue.
Here are the three moments Liverpool.com picked out from the Reds’ 2-1 win against Leicester.
When Trent Alexander-Arnold comes in for praise, it is usually for his attacking work. Sure enough, he looked a little surprised with the Man of the Match award, having come away without any goals or assists to his name.
Nonetheless, the recognition was fully warranted. Alexander-Arnold was excellent for the most part up against Harvey Barnes, standing his ground and making some key challenges. If Gareth Southgate was watching, it would have given him pause for thought.
After all, the right-back has been subject to absurd scrutiny of late, and will not be sad to see the back of this World Cup year. His defensive work has been put under the microscope — just recently, Kenny Cunningham called him the Liverpool ‘weakness’, supposedly ripe for exploitation by Leicester (via Leicestershire Live).
If that was Brendan Rodgers’ plan, it backfired badly. Alexander-Arnold was probably the most secure of all the defenders. And while he didn’t technically get an assist, it was his cross that Wout Faes turned in for the first of his own goals. All in all, a great day’s work, and certainly one for the doubters.
It was a truly curious game. One or two standouts aside, it was below-par across the board from Liverpool, and without two freakish own goals it would be a very different narrative.
As it is, Liverpool have now won four on the bounce, and are closing in on the top four. But Jürgen Klopp will be acutely aware that things will need to change if they are to secure their place in next season’s Champions League, not to mention challenge for this year’s iteration.
All of the usual weaknesses were on display, including a soft centre even more tantalising for Leicester than a Ferrero Rocher on Christmas Day. The goal was ludicrously easily for Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, who did little more than just keep on running.
There are dangers inherent in the high line and offside trap employed by Klopp, but this tactic is nothing new for Liverpool. It is only really this season where it appears to have collapsed, giving up big chances every week. Something surely needs to change.
In that sense, it is strange that Cody Gakpo was the first one through the door in the winter transfer window. Liverpool will be hoping that there is another midfielder to come, with the absence of a defensive presence keenly felt on this occasion.
This section was made for Faes. The unfortunate young Leicester turned in two own goals — not ideal at any time, but sickening when they flip a tight game on its head.
Liverpool wouldn’t have dared to hope for such a gift. The first, in particular, was farcical. Danny Ward, who once called Anfield home, could be heard calling for the ball, but Faes made the decision to play it. His sliced, looping clearance produced an equaliser from nothing.
His second looked just as ugly in real time. However, a couple of Liverpool players deserve to be given their due credit.
Salah and Núñez each missed some glaring chances throughout the match. Núñez pulled the trigger six times without finding the net; his Egyptian colleague was less shot-happy, but spurned perhaps the biggest chance of the lot, having been put through beautifully by his partner in crime.
Yet without them on the pitch, Liverpool would undoubtedly have dropped points. One of the six Núñez efforts was the chip that got Faes in a twist, and the striker was mightily unfortunate not to get the goal for himself. As for Salah, his desire to follow in ensured the Belgian had no time to sort his feet out.
Anfield recognised Núñez with his chant in the aftermath of the goal, but it could just as easily have been a serenade to the Egyptian King. His own song came out after the poor miss later on, proving that Anfield fully recognised the contributions of their profligate forwards. Nobody would say no to a few more goals, though.