Taylor caught short by Heskey

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The Independent Football

Liverpool duly rubbed salt into the wounds inflicted on Leicester by Manchester United last week. But, boy, did they make hard work of the task.

Liverpool duly rubbed salt into the wounds inflicted on Leicester by Manchester United last week. But, boy, did they make hard work of the task.

Had Liverpool reached half-time with a three-goal lead, the balance of the play would not have been violated. Having passed their way to oblivion in the first half, in the end they had to rely for the winner on a simpleton of a goal scored, inevitably, by Emile Heskey midway through the second half.

It was the first goal that Leicester have conceded away from home this season, a statistic balanced by the equally telling fact that Leicester have not scored a goal for five-and-a-half hours. Peter Taylor would seem the ideal man for the 0-0 against Ukraine which Kevin Keegan so despised. Roll on the England job.

Taylor, the Leicester manager, confirmed that he would be willing to work part-time within the international set-up, if asked, and that he believed his chairman would not object - which is as close as the Football Association's chief executive has come to positive feedback.

"I've got no doubt that he [my chairman] would see it as a good thing for me and a good thing for Leicester City," Taylor said. "The last time we had an international week we had six players away, so I was only able to work for one day anyway." It was, however, probably as well that Adam Crozier was not at Anfield to watch Leicester, because their methods were neither pleasing on the eye nor, eventually, on the scoresheet.

At least Gérard Houllier had something to cheer. "The first time since I've been in England that we've won against Leicester," the Liverpool manager said. "You've got to give them credit, they have a compact style, they defend very well and they never stop. We always have trouble with them."

Quite why will be a source of bewilderment to the Frenchman, who fielded an attacking midfield, augmented by Steven Gerrard at right-back, in anticipation of Leicester's counterattacking tendency. But in that embarrassment of riches lies part of the problem. Too often, Nick Barmby's tendency to drift away from the right touchline towards the centre cramped the space for the forwards and deprived Liverpool of the natural width supplied by David Beckham at Manchester United.

The lunchtime free-kick by Beckham which effectively sunk Leeds also highlighted Liverpool's inadequacy at set-pieces. Twice in the first half Liverpool had free-kicks within 25 yards of goal, but Patrik Berger's shot was too anaemic, while Christian Ziege's soared into Row Z. As Dietmar Hamann had left his shooting boots in the cupboard and Tim Flowers had an inspirational afternoon in the Leicester goal, Taylor was starting to sense the outline of a classic 1-0 heist as the hour ticked by and the Kop began to bay.

Had Leicester won, they would have been the first club since Herbert Chapman's Arsenal in the 1930s to have won in four consecutive seasons at Anfield. But their one chance came and went in the fifth minute, a close-range header by Gary Rowett, who later atoned for the miss with an acrobatic block on the line from a full-blooded drive by Robbie Fowler as Liverpool failed to convert their chances.

Houllier, though, will be thankful for the smallest of mercies which lifted Liverpool above the Midlands upstarts and into the top three. The source of the gift was no surprise, to either side. In Leicester's case, forewarned should have been forearmed, but Heskey, slimmer than in his days at Filbert Street, terrorised his old team-mates all afternoon. "He is not the finished article by a long way, but his workrate is phenomenal," Houllier said of his £11m purchase. "He needs more self-belief, sometimes he reacts more than he anticipates."

Heskey could have had a hat-trick, but he hit the bar in the first half and failed to convert two further chances when through on Flowers in the second. Yet, perversely, just as Leicester seemed to have balanced the equation and Liverpool were chewing their pencil, the home team went ahead. It was not a classic goal; in fact, for all the huffing and puffing beforehand, it was desperately soft. For once, Markus Babbel's long diagonal ball eluded the ever-dependable Matt Elliott and caught Flowers in no-man's-land. Just a gentle flick diverted the ball apologetically past both to bring the England forward his first goal in front of the Kop and his fourth in two games.

Leicester mustered some belated pressure and Muzzy Izzet forced a flying save from Sander Westerveld. That the final whistle was greeted with relief said much for their inability to finish off games with a United-like flourish.