Friday, July 1, 2022

Liverpool 2-0 Leicester City: Main talking points as Jota proves deadly for Foxes

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Liverpool beat Leicester City at Anfield on Thursday by 2-0, getting some sweet revenge for the narrow defeat they suffered at the hands of the Foxes at the King Power Stadium in late December. Both goals were the work of Diogo Jota, who took his chance from a rebound after Kasper Schmeichel saved Virgil van Dijk’s header in the 34th minute, before latching onto a brilliant assist from Joel Matip to fire past Schmeichel again in the 87th.

That man Jota again

The impact the signing of Diogo Jota in 2020 has had for Liverpool has been spoken about quite a lot, and yet, match after match, the Portuguese forward always makes sure there’s more to be said on the subject.

On this particular occasion, he didn’t get off to a great start, with both Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino notably more involved in the action in the final third of the pitch. However, his influence grew with each passing minute until he became a proper menace in the box once more. His knack for being at the right place at the right time is second to none at the moment, and his 12 goals this season have him in second place, behind Mohamed Salah, in the Premier League goalscoring list for the season.

Further more, Jota appears to be somewhat of a weakness for this particular opponent. He now has eight goal against the Foxes in all competitions, more than against any other side.

Luis Diaz makes Premier League debut

It was a really good match from the £50m winger. Diaz was heavily involved in the action right from the start, never to shy to take responsibility despite the fact that this was his first ever game in the Premier League. He was a constant challenge for James Justin and Marc Albrighton, or any other Leicester player that happened to be on that side of the pitch, where he forged a good working relationship and lots of understanding with Andy Robertson.

His passing was intricate and skillful, and he showed extreme talent for keeping the ball under pressure as well as winning it back for his team as quickly as possible. He also forced several very difficult saves from Schmeichel.

Jurgen Klopp and his staff have obviously chosen the right player to add to their ranks last month, the absence of a player like Sadio Mane was hardly felt at all. The feeling is, there’s a lot more to come between now and the end of the season.

Mo Salah not quite up to speed

Mo Salah showed incredible commitment to the club, the highest level of professionalism, and a strong desire to put the woes of the African Cup of Nations final behind him as quickly as possible, by simply turning up for training just two days later and making himself available to face Leicester.

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Naturally, he wasn’t deemed ready to start and he was named initially on the bench, coming on to replace Firmino on the hour-mark, and though he was characteristically dangerous upfront, he did seem off-colour just a bit. There were one or two occasions when you’d have expected Mo Salah to bury the ball into the net, but a very slight drop of concentration allowed Schmeichel, an excellent goalkeeper as he is, to thwart him twice, while one particular shot rattled the place where the post and the crossbar come together.

This was all to be expected and not at all a reason for worry. The Egyptian has the same hunger as ever, if not even more, and the sharpness he maybe lacked on Thursday will return quickly.

Leicester strikers no match for Van Dijk and Matip

In the absence of Jamie Vardy, former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers named Patson Daka to lead Leicester’s attacking line, and the Zambian striker looked completely incapable of causing any problems to Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip. Every ball that came his way, either long or short, was almost always lost quickly.

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In truth, Matip alone is a top defender on his day, but when Van Dijk plays like he did in this match, there isn’t a forward on the planet that will fancy his chances against the Dutchman. The likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland, among other world-class attackers, have struggled to cause him problems in the past.

Daka, with all due respect to his notable talent, had no chance against him, and neither did Kelechi Iheanacho who came on to replace him in the 60th minute. If anything, the former Manchester City man looked even less likely to score.

Fabinho should also be mentioned as a player who did much to prevent Leicester from threatening the Liverpool goal. In fact, both he and Van Dijk were up there with Jota in terms of individual performance.

The race goes on

Manchester City are still best-placed to finish top of the league and keep their crown, but since they dropped two points against Southampton in the previous round, they have to be extra careful. One more slipup followed by a Liverpool win could put the matter back within reach for Klopp and his men, and the two teams are yet to face each other in what promises to be a cracking match in April.

As it stands, City are nine points ahead, but the Merseysiders still have a game in hand. As has been said, the defending champions are still looking good, but they can’t afford to relax at any point between now and the end of May, unless Liverpool start dropping points soon.

That’s certainly not impossible, but it looks unlikely for the time being. Caution with words like that is certainly needed, but Liverpool have a full squad at their disposal. They went through the absence of Mane and Salah with winning two out of two Premier League matches, reaching the final of the Carabao Cup and the fifth round of the FA Cup. The two star forwards are now back in contention, with the rest of the team playing very well. All the signs of a proper fight for the title for their part are there.

It’s going to be some ride.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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