Leicester 2-0 LIVERPOOL
Liverpool have exited from the league cup in the third round after a frustrating display of football in Leicester.
This lineup was… “experimental”. Jurgen Klopp has been known to rotate his squad between Premier League and Champions League fixtures, using a wide variety of players that appeared in the different competitions almost exclusively. It was like we had two completely different starting 11 lineups. Having said that, it seems like Klopp created a THIRD completely different lineup but it just doesn’t really compare to the Premier and Champions League lineups. This was a collection of new signings (Robertson, Oxlade Chamberlain and Solanke) with a mix of generally unused players that don’t make the starting 11s for Premier League or Champions League fixtures.
Marko Grujic has been on the sidelines for months on end, lucky if he can even make the substitute bench but almost always just sitting in the stands in his suit and tie, because he wasn’t going to be a part of the squad at all. But hey, let’s put a red shirt on him now and see what he can do? It’s well known that inexperience and not playing regularly leads to loss of form, you can’t just give your best performance of the season in the debut match you’ll play. So, he’s not someone I’d have picked. Other choices made by our manager were just as questionable.
Klopp’s tactics were not the best for this fixture. All of a sudden, Danny Ward is being used? Fine, this was a League Cup game. It’s not the Champions League and it’s not the Premier League but I would have at least expected ONE of either Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius to be used considering that they’ve had more experience in successful fixtures than Ward has. The “undefeated” parts of the season were during a time when either Karius or Mignolet were playing. This experimental squad has not played together previously in official fixtures, likely only ever being lined up with each other at the training ground.
As for Coutinho, he’s made it publicly known that he’d rather be playing in La Liga for Barcelona and when a player doesn’t really want to be at club, are they really going to give their best performances for them? It’s risky to place a player with that “want-away” attitude in your starting lineup.
Did Klopp really expect this team to go up against a side that has won the Premier League and have us continue into the next round of the League Cup?
Other doubtful decisions were made by Klopp during this fixture and we’ll get to talking about them eventually.
Liverpool started well enough, pressing and holding possession more than our opposition. There was attacks from early on involving Coutinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Solanke. Nobody can say we didn’t try to win this game. We’d attacked from start to finish, never giving up on creating chances for goalscoring and taken many shots by the end of the game. The ball just wouldn’t end up in the net for us unfortunately.
Oxlade Chamberlain would work so hard in fact that he may have picked up a minor injury. He would be seen strapping his ankle up and bravely continuing with play.
Liverpool worked hard for the whole first half. Coutinho had been seen creating chances and trying to score. At half time, one of the more questionable decisions made by the Liverpool manager would happen. Jurgen Klopp chose to replace Coutinho would Ben Woodburn. It was 0-0, we needed goals and Klopp is bringing off a known regular goalscorer for an inexperienced player that isn’t anywhere near as successful in his goalscoring records. The guy who has been recently valued at an estimated £176 Million (£200 Million Euros) by Barcelona, who were willing to seriously break club transfer fee records to bring him to their squad was changed out for a young player that’s not long ago graduated from our youth teams into the first team squad and who’d had less than 5 senior appearances prior to this fixture.
You’re thinking “why would Klopp make that change?”, right? Yeah, that substitution didn’t make sense to me either. This wasn’t a change that benefited Liverpool. It was counter-productive to our efforts for winning and continuing on to the next round of the competition. Klopp could have taken off the partially injured Oxlade Chamberlain but didn’t. Klopp could have waited until after the 60 minute mark (as often happens, managers give some of their substitutions half an hour of game time) but also didn’t do that. Instead, he was prematurely changing the squad around at a time when the scoreline is level and we desperately need to be the team who scores and wins in a knockout competition.
Just look at those half time statistics. Liverpool had been in possession of the ball for three quarters of the whole half. Three times we had serious goalscoring opportunities and could not make them count. Further attacking opportunities were going to have to happen for our key attackers in the 2nd half but the half time substitution of Coutinho just took away his chance to eventually turn one of his chances into a goal.
I wish I could be recalling how I’d seen Ben Woodburn become a “game changer”, that he’d turned the game around and assisted a goal or scored himself but the truth is, these things didn’t happen. It was a terrible choice by the Liverpool manager to make the Coutinho-Woodburn substitution and right now, even our own fans are questioning whether we should in fact keep Klopp as our manager OR replace him with a new manager. YES, there are Liverpool fans who have been THAT disappointed with Jurgen Klopp lately and we need to see some serious improvements that transitions us from the embarrassing defeats or even draws (with lesser sides that we should be defeating) and get back to winning again or Klopp’s job WILL be taken from him as popular opinion would dictate to happen.
The game would continue and Liverpool still worked hard. That we ended up with 0 goals by the end of the game doesn’t mean we didn’t try to score.
The goals Leicester would score came past the 65th minute, though significant events for them began about quarter of an hour earlier. In the 50th minute, Ulloa would make a headed clearance that actually seemed to give him a concussion. He smashed his head at the ball with no Liverpool players around him (so it certainly wasn’t a body-check from any of our players that caused Ulloa’s injury). He’d then fall to the ground, dazed and in need of medical attention while Liverpool were still trying to gather the ball he’d headed away and counter attack.
The concussion was serious enough to have him changed with a new player and so Ulloa would be substituted for Okazaki. If you know how the result turned out at least, you’ll probably know that Okazaki was the first of two goalscorers for Leicester so this change was important to the outcome of the game.
In the 66th minute, a Leicester corner is only half cleared by the Liverpool defence, it’s then returned back into the box where Morgan heads on and then Iborra heads down for Okazaki. He scuffs his shot but Andy Robertson fails to make it to the ball in time for clearing the danger and the ball makes it’s way past Danny Ward and into the net. Okazaki has scored and it’s Leicester 1-0 Liverpool.
Not long after, a significant event would happen to Liverpool but of course, it wasn’t a goal. In the 73rd minute, Danny Ings would make his long-awaited return to first-team action as he replaces Gini Wijnaldum. It would be the first appearance for the striker since October 2016 and would get to play with Solanke in the foremost attacking position possible.
Danny Ings would surely have been a more appropriate replacement for Coutinho at half time given his long wait to recover to full fitness but even his 73rd minute appearance was welcomed by Reds fans. We haven’t forgotten you, Danny. Welcome back.
It was only about 5 minutes from when Ings had come onto the pitch to when another goal was scored and I’d love to be able to report that Ings got an equaliser or assisted a goal at least but unfortunately, it was Leicester scoring their second goal.
The 78th minute saw Slimani cut inside Liverpool’s defence on the edge of the box and fire off a well placed left-footed shot into the far corner of the net. Danny Ward was not well positioned for saving this shot. He’d already rushed off his line to meet the attacker but really, he was just making it easier for Slimani to place his shot over the head of the Liverpool goalkeeper. My concerns about using Ward instead of Mignolet or Karius became justified by this error as the scoreline changed to Leicester 2-0 Liverpool. Now there was only 12 minutes left in the game and Liverpool looked completely defeated already.
Man of the Match
In a game where Liverpool were defeated and could not even score, one player still stuck out as a hardworking part of the team that would never give up. Oxlade Chamberlain actually needed to strap his ankle up in the first half but would bravely continue to play for his new club right till the final whistle, ignoring the injury to himself so that he could be a part of the team without being substituted off. He wanted to win, you could sense that from his determined attitude that put his club’s ambitions above his own personal health and fitness. He did all he could to try and help us reach the next round of the League Cup. Credit is deserved for that.
The two sides meet again at the King Power Stadium on Saturday in the Premier League. YES, it’s Leicester V Liverpool AGAIN! Who wants revenge? Who wants a WIN after all the drawing and losing we’ve been doing lately? Alright then! Here’s hoping we can get it. Walk on with hope in your hearts, Anfield Family. You’ll Never Walk Alone.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (more than 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.