Reds offense absent, defense sloppy in 1-0 defeat to depleted Leicester City

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LEICESTER, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 28: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and Luke Thomas of Leicester City look to win the ball at the near post at a corner during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Liverpool at The King Power Stadium on December 28, 2021 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Liverpool traveled to King Power Stadium to face Leicester City on Tuesday evening in the Reds final match of 2021, and with a few key players returning to the pitch. Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho both returned to Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI after being sidelined for a few weeks with COVID-19.

Liverpool came out dominant and energetic, perhaps benefitting from a few days rest after having their Boxing Day fixture cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreaks within Leeds United. Leicester, by contrast, were just two days removed from a 6-3 battering at the hands of Manchester City at the Etihad.

Unfortunately, an early boost and some rest did not translate into anything fruitful for the Reds. In fact, Liverpool looked like the team that were playing their second game in just about 48 hours. For the first time since April 14 , the Reds failed to register a goal, falling 1-0 to Leicester in their final match of the year. The game was the perfect example of Liverpool’s failure to cash in on early opportunities coming back to bite them hard, and was a continuance of a concerning trend of the Reds allowing their opponents to strike first.

And it wasn’t for a lack of chances. The Reds were even gifted the early opportunity to take the lead after Mohammed Salah was tripped just in front of the Leicester goal for a penalty immediately given by referee Michael Oliver. Salah, however, placed an uncharacteristically weak ball within the reach of a diving Kasper Schmeichel and failed to cash in on the header off the rebound. It was the Egyptian’s second ever missed penalty in the Premier League.

The match remained scoreless through to break and into the second half until the Reds’ defense fell dismally short on a Leicester attack allowing Ademola Lookman to score on the Wolves’ first shot on target. Liverpool, frankly, looked a slow mess in the second half. Passes were inaccurate on offensive, and the defense was lagging to challenge Leicester counters. The only burst of energy the Reds put forward came in a flurry of corner kicks awarded in the final minutes, but it was too little, too late. With an xG of 2.3 and 67 touches in the opposition’s box, Liverpool were shutout.

The Reds will enter 2022 second in the Premier League, six points behind a currently-rampaging Manchester City. Liverpool is scheduled to travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea to kick off the new year on January 2.

 

GK/Defensemen

Allison – 6

Despite a few threatening possessions from Leicester, Allison hardly had to handle the ball within the first half. He continued to be mostly uninvolved in the second half and was left out to dry by his defense on Leicester’s winner.

 

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7

Alexander-Arnold put on a clinic in driving horizontal passes for the Reds today, stretching the field with a number of long balls deep into Leicester territory to set up a number of Liverpool attacks. On the defensive end, unfortunately, the Scouser fell a bit short. Trent failed to stay with Ademola Lookman’s run into the box that ultimately allowed him to score the opener for Leicester.

 

Joel Matip – 8 (Man of the Match)

Matip was booked early on, but later had a heroic play to save a Leicester shot that surpassed Allison and was headed toward the back post. He got in a half-decent run toward Schmeichel before losing control of the ball in the first half. The second half saw Matip continue to feed the offense with a 83% pass rating. His impressive performance carried over on the defensive end as well, shutting down a number of Leicester attacks and finishing the game with 3 interceptions, a clearance, and winning six aerial duels.

 

Virgil van Dijk – 6

In his return to the pitch following a COVID-19-related hiatus, the Dutchman kept decent pace with Jamie Vardy on a number of one-on-one attacks that came his way. However, van Dijk was passive in his backpedaling defense on Lookman in the buildup to his game-winner, unable to put up any sort of block on the shot.

 

Kostas Tsimikas – 7

Tsimikas did a great job getting involved downfield in the offense for the Reds throughout Tuesday’s match. Tsimikas also had a critical touch to deflect away an excellent ball headed for a lone Jamie Vardy. Later in the game, he remained energetic and eager on offense, working hard to find cross opportunities in Liverpool’s pursuit of an equalizer. He finished the match with 89% pass success and 3 key passes.

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