Liverpool do enough to beat Leicester, stay top despite Alisson's error
LEICESTER, England -- Three thoughts on Liverpool's 2-1 win vs. Leicester in the Premier League.
1. Liverpool maintain 100 percent winning record
If you ignored the action on the pitch and just watched Jurgen Klopp on the touchline, you would never know that he was the manager of the victorious team.
That's because Klopp knows his side got away with one at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool started the game in a manner that suggested they would humiliate Leicester, but ended it clinging on to a one-goal lead.
Goals from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were ultimately enough for Liverpool, but after Leicester pulled one back through Rachid Ghezzal, the victory was more slender than it should have been. The Premier League leaders' performance was riddled with inconsistencies; at full-time the cheer from the away end felt more like relief than jubilation.
Liverpool should have taken the lead in the fourth minute when Mohamed Salah put a simple chance wide, but did go ahead five minutes later. Andrew Robertson bounced off a challenge from Roberto Pereira on the left and played into the area for Mane who, after a favourable bounce, stabbed a decisive finish past Kasper Schmeichel.
Leicester were the better team for much of the rest of the half, though, taking advantage of a one-paced Liverpool midfield in which Jordan Henderson had replaced Naby Keita. But the hosts couldn't break through, thanks to some wayward shooting and terrific goalkeeping by Alisson.
And just before the break, Liverpool made it two in startlingly simple fashion. James Milner swung over a corner from the right and Firmino was there, at best semi-marked, to head home from about 10 yards.
The theme continued after half-time. Liverpool's unusually slack passing had put them in trouble a couple of times and it felt like a matter of time before they would be punished. When they were, it was entirely of their own making.
Alisson had the ball at his feet, to the right of goal, and when pressed by substitute Kelechi Iheanacho the Liverpool goalkeeper tried to escape with a Cruyff turn. The forward dispossessed him and squared to Ghezzal, who forced home. The spirit of Loris Karius lives on in the Liverpool goal.
Leicester might have found an equaliser before the end, but Liverpool managed to keep their lead and make it 12 points from 12. Just.
2. Klopp's men have room for improvement
Four games played and four victories. It's the first time Liverpool have managed that since 1990 and they will go into the first international break of this nascent season level on points -- at worst -- with the leaders of the Premier League.
Yet, there is more in this Liverpool team. In fact, you could make the argument that they were flat-out bad for much of this victory and, against a better opponent, might have been punished much more harshly.
Before the game, Klopp explained that the selection of Henderson instead of Keita was to give Liverpool more solidity in midfield. It might have done so but that did not stop the manager spending much of the game in an agitated state, dancing around his technical area like a man with itching powder in his shoes.
One wayward long pass by Virgil van Dijk, for example, caused Klopp to graduate from agitation to anger, apoplectic at why his defender would play such a thoughtless hoof.
There were flashes of what Liverpool could and probably will be later in the season, but the usually near-telepathic understanding between their front three was absent, their midfield was ponderous and then there is Alisson's error. Klopp's remarks last week, claiming his new goalkeeper tried tricks with his feet only when he needed to, were poorly-timed in retrospect.
The good news is that they have maximum points. The bad news is that, if they carry on playing like this, that record will not go much further.
3. Leicester miss suspended Vardy
It is no revelation to say that Leicester missed the suspended Jamie Vardy. The striker, who stepped back from England duty this week in order to focus more fully on his club career, remains their most potent attacking threat, particularly after the departure of Riyad Mahrez.
Who wouldn't miss a striker who scored 23 times last season, is closing on his century for the club and is among the greatest players in Leicester's history?
But as much as his goals, it is the way Vardy allows Leicester to play that makes him so important for them and so difficult for opposition defences to deal with.
"He's always on the edge, going in behind, over the shoulder all that stuff; it's really difficult to defend," said Klopp before the game. "That makes him different to nearly all other strikers in the Premier League; that makes him so special."
You can see why Leciester manager Claude Puel experimented with no recognised centre-forward, given that the natural replacement Iheanacho remains something of an enigma. An interchanging front four of wingers and No. 10s could work but, while Demarai Gray is a fine player, he is no Vardy.
Vardy offers his side decisive finishing and such threat on the counter-attack that he lets them play a simpler game against bigger sides. Without him, Leicester had to try playing through Liverpool; they did not do a terrible job, but might have been more effective with their talisman.