Brendan Rodgers returned to Anfield for the first time since the sacking that made way for Jurgen Klopp. While his welcome was warm, Liverpool deservedly left Leicester City and their boss lamenting about losing 2-1.
The Reds started with a seriousness of purpose that spilt over from their midweek Champions League victory. Having gotten a bit of a scare from a lightning-quick side that likes to score on the break, they seemed steeled for Leicester’s counter-attacking tactics.
It took some time for Liverpool to breach the Foxes goal but James Milner’s exceptional ball through to Sadio Mané in the 40th minute broke the deadlock and looked like a preview of more to come. Failing to take a few chances meant that the 1-0 scoreline lasted far longer than imagined.
Leicester are a good side, entering the contest in third place for a reason, and they continued to pester the home side. With 10 minutes left, James Maddison scored the scruffiest of goals to equalize.
Yet, Liverpool refused to let the points slip. They continued to push for the winner. It finally came from as clear a penalty as can be awarded, when Marc Albrighton took Sadio Mané down in the area.
Given how much the referees missed in this match, it proved deserved justice. James Milner secured the win from the spot in stoppage time, and Liverpool remain atop the league with a perfect point total.
Here are four findings from the match.
Sadio Mané scored his 50th goal in his 100th appearance for Liverpool. Since joining the club, his progress has been nothing short of sensational.
He is now unquestionably one of the best players in the world and has found his form again. He is the main man at the moment.
Against both Salzburg and Leicester, the Senegalese has been at some of his menacing best. His play has crackled with brilliance.
His run onto James Milner’s sumptuous ball into the half-space behind the defene for the goal showcased Mané’s quality on all fronts. He also rightly won the penalty that earned the victory.
A lot of talk targeting Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive work has been bandied about of late. The fullback often sees considerable action down his side of the pitch and can at times, can look a bit exposed.
However, he has already established himself as one of the best right backs in world football and he has not yet turned 21 years of age.
In the first half especially, the Scouser shaped a significant amount of the play. He was everywhere along his flank defending and driving forward. He is so good on the ball for a fullback, it can overshadow his ability to defend.
With Mané offering considerably more cover than he normally gets from Mo Salah, Alexander-Arnold bossed his side of the pitch and was unfortunate not to collect a couple of assists.
As the challenges to Liverpool’s 100% record in the Premier League continue coming, Jurgen Klopp is tinkering with the side. Against Leicester, they started with more of a 4-2-3-1.
The departure from the typical front three was that kind of wrinkle to regain the kind of control that they seemed to lose against Salzburg midweek.
With Mo Salah central, Mané primarily worked the right and Roberto Firmino, who can play about anywhere, spent more time on the left than dropping into the number 10 he adopts more commonly in that shape.
For most of the match, it worked. Liverpool may not have generated quite as many chances but those they did were clear-cut.
Also, crowding the midfield a bit more limited the number of balls that could be sent over-the-top to a rushing Jaime Vardy. Plus, Dejan Lovren acquitted himself well on his surprise recall. It all nearly earned a clean sheet.
Liverpool continue to show just how much they have grown as a side as the club has come together with the current personnel. They are winning in different ways.
This one may have been an ugly win but they were the far superior side for the vast majority of the contest. Had they taken any more of the chances they created, they may well have battered Leicester.
More than that, this side is extraordinarily mentally strong. It has become routine for referees to look away from the manhandling that all the attackers receive, but especially Mo Salah, nearly every match now. Defenders are practically given criminal license against the Reds.
Yet, the side simply plays through it. They continue to grind and graft, determined to settle matches on their own terms. The penalty that was finally awarded was not even the first one that should have been given in the game.