Berger strikes twice to take Liverpool top

Leicester City 0 Liverpool 3
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Patrik Berger, a stylish if fitful presence during the Czech Republic's run to the European Championship final, announced his arrival in the English game proper with two goals at Filbert Street yesterday to help install Liverpool at the top of the Premiership.

A tall, elegant midfielder from Prague, bought for pounds 3m from Borussia Dortmund, Berger replaced the listless Stan Collymore for the second half. With generous help from the Leicester defence, he looked considerably more than a makeshift striker, although his impact tended to gloss over a below-par Liverpool performance.

Berger's benefit day means that he has scored as many goals, in less than an hour's first-team action, as Collymore and Robbie Fowler have together. Relations between the attacking duo, who amassed a total of 55 goals last season, are reported to be in the Gallagher brothers' class; their inability to show even an elementary understanding undoubtedly contributed to their team's lacklustre first-half display.

Leicester, indeed, should have been ahead long before the Liverpool front runners' lack of communication became apparent. Emile Heskey, allowed a free header from Neil Lennon's cross after only 35 seconds, failed to direct the ball beyond David James' reach. Julian Watts, gifted a similar opportunity, sent it over the bar.

Despite having to switch to a flat back four after an early injury to Spencer Prior, Leicester nevertheless held their own until the interval. Simon Grayson once overran the ball with James in his sights, whereas Kasey Keller's only scare had been a shot by Steve McManaman which spiralled to safety off his legs.

Sadly for Leicester it was to be a game of two halves if not for Collymore. With the introduction of Berger, Liverpool discovered an overdue sense of urgency and went in front shortly after the hour. Watts, inexplicably trying to dribble out of defence, was unloaded by McManaman, who in turn put the substitute clear. A brutal finish left Keller helpless.

Almost immediately, Leicester's American goalkeeper let a 20-yard volley by Michael Thomas squirm through his grasp. With a few honourable exceptions, the home side threw in the towel, and were static as Fowler set up the now-rampant Berger for a fulminating third.

Roy Evans claimed he had withdrawn Collymore for "tactical reasons", preferring Berger's ability to strike from deep positions. "The change made a difference, there's no doubt about that," the Liverpool manager said. "We've got a few on the bench dying to get on and Patrik's only one of them.

"He had an instant impact with a shot that was blocked which seemed to liven the whole thing up. Robbie and Stan haven't been as sharp as they can be - it hasn't quite worked out and defenders are working hard to close them down."

Last season Liverpool dropped too many points to what might be termed the lesser teams. In their last two away matches they have beaten Coventry and Leicester, and if it is true that winning when not at your best is the mark of champions, Evans can look forward with confidence.

Goals: Berger (59) 0-1; Thomas (61) 0-2; Berger (77) 0-3.

Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Prior (Parker, 10), Watts (Marshall, 71), Walsh; Grayson, Izzet, Lennon, Taylor, Whitlow; Claridge, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Robins, Lawrence, Poole (gk).

Liverpool (3-4-1-2): James; Wright, Matteo, Babb; McAteer, Thomas, Barnes, Bjornebye; McManaman; Fowler, Collymore (Berger, h-t). Substitutes not used: Ruddock, Redknapp, L Jones, Warner (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Poole, Dorset). Attendance: 20,987.

Man of the match: Berger.

Comments