Leicester City vs Liverpool match report: Steven Gerrard makes striking return to breathe life into the Reds

Leicester City 1 Liverpool 3

Kevin Garside
Tuesday 02 December 2014 22:55
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There were no awkward questions for Brendan Rodgers tonight. The Liverpool manager picked his captain from the start and Steven Gerrard rewarded him with a vintage display and a goal.

Three points against a Leicester side reduced to 10 men for the last half hour might not represent a full recovery from recent ills, but it constituted a second win on the spin for the first time this season to lower stress levels at Anfield.

Liverpool were confronted by a determined Leicester, who were dangerous enough to take the lead and who battled to the end. But with Gerrard at the heart of everything, adding a fourth goal of the season and the 177th of his club career, Liverpool cruelly exposed the home team’s lack of a clinical edge.

If Liverpool were unfortunate to fall behind in the 22nd minute following a mistake by Simon Mignolet they enjoyed the roll of the dice to be level four minutes later through Adam Lallana. Thereafter there was a sense of resurgence, typified through Gerrard’s sweet strike on the hour. Jordan Henderson’s finish for the third iced the cake.

It had been quite a week at Liverpool. How distant must seem the cut and thrust of title contention last season, replaced by dispute and uncertainty, plus the curve ball that is Mario Balotelli.

Gerrard, around whom manager Rodgers has circled delicately, was returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Philippe Coutinho. Glen Johnson, who appears to occupy opposing space to Gerrard in the contract extension business, retained his place despite the obvious tensions around his negotiations, or lack of them.

Balotelli was absent ostensibly with a groin strain, an injury that covers a multitude of sins when it suits, as it surely did in the aftermath of the social media fiasco in which he managed to invite accusations of racism, some going indeed for an Afro-Italian adopted son of a Jewish mother.

For Leicester there were no such tribulations, only the need to conjure a result against the odds. This was another game in the must-win category. In the eight matches since the eclipse of Manchester United in September, Leicester have garnered only two points and began the evening looking up at every other team in the Premier League.

Leicester manager Nigel Pearson, like Rodgers, had built a deal of goodwill at the club after leading them into the promised land and was thought to enjoy the positive patronage of the Thai owners. But love is a fickle beast in this environment and neither he, nor Rodgers for that matter, could readily tolerate a reverse.

Rodgers enlivened the Gerrard debate by playing him in an advanced role three days after it was considered politic not to start him. Odd, you might think, that a player, who according to the manager needs to be nursed through his advanced years, should be removed from the more gentle holding role for the hustle and bustle of the final third.

But then these are desperate times for Liverpool, a club predicated on Champions League football languishing in mid-table. Gerrard was indeed involved in the first genuine break, linking with Rickie Lambert on the right to seek out Raheem Sterling, who was moving at pace towards goal. The pass was not quite his equal and the danger was cleared.

Leicester’s first clear chance came in the 20th minute courtesy of a pass to feet from Mignolet, who was looking to find Javi Manquillo at right-back but instead found the advancing Esteban Cambiasso. He will never have a better chance to pick a pocket. Perhaps it was the shock that Mignolet should do such a thing that forced the Argentine into a rushed sidefoot shot wide of the post.

It didn’t matter, Leicester were ahead two minutes later and Mignolet was again at fault, failing to deal with Leonardo Ulloa’s shot. The ball rebounded off the keeper’s left-hand post and in off his prone body.

If Liverpool were out of luck on that occasion they had their share four minutes later with the equaliser. A hopeful cross flung in from the right was headed away by Wes Morgan straight to the feet of Adam Lallana, who met it with enthusiasm. Kasper Schmeichel moved only to pick the ball out of the net.

Rodgers sent on Alberto Moreno for Manquillo at the start of the second half, switching Johnson from left to right-back. The defence looked much better balanced as a result, and it needed to be to repel the early thrusts of a home side who were clearly fired up.

Leicester had Liverpool pinned back for the opening 10 minutes of the half only for Liverpool to hit them with a brilliant counter. Gerrard started and finished the move playing a one-two with Henderson before releasing Sterling with a sumptuous slide-rule pass.

Sterling’s cross was cleared but only into the path of Gerrard, who wrapped that lethal right foot around the ball to send it arrow-like past Schmeichel for goal No 177 of his Liverpool career.

It got worse for Leicester with the red card for captain Morgan, who wrestled Lambert to the ground leaving Lee Mason with no alternative but to send him off.

Liverpool added a yard of pace after the goal. Against 10 men they perked up no end, resembling the cocky outfit that ran Manchester City so close last season. Leicester were never less than committed but, a man down, were ultimately outgunned.

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