The Reds avoided a painful case of deja vu last night as they edged Leicester in a rematch of their League Cup encounter earlier in the week. First half goals from Mo Salah and Phil Coutinho paced Liverpool to an early lead but a controversial Shinji Okazaki goal cut the gap in half. Skipper Jordan Henderson extended the lead again in the second half before Jamie Vardy pulled one back and had a penalty saved by Simon Mignolet. The game had just about everything but what did we learn from it?
Doubters Will Doubt
If I have learnt anything significant in recent years, it is that Twitter and social media in general greatly distorts any realistic opinions people have of certain players or teams. The anonymity is a feasting ground for wind up merchants or deluded and hateful individuals. This week after the cup exit I decided to avoid looking at Twitter too often and instead calmly decided what I believe is happening with the team. The experience was quite relaxing and I discovered quite a lot.
Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip are a good centre half pairing. Despite some obvious nervous moments yesterday, they once again demonstrated that they work pretty well together and rarely lose matches as a duo. Alberto Moreno was solid to their left aside from the Vardy goal and even though he can play much better Joe Gomez did well on the right. The overall message I am trying to convey is that searching for mistakes or flaws is not helping this year. Yet it is all people talk about. People clearly enjoy being negative, but not me.
The same can be said of Jordan Henderson. I was somewhat aware that he had received criticism after the game on Tuesday. I will defend our skipper whenever I can but I don’t currently see the need. Even without the goal, he was brilliant yesterday. Titanic display. I don’t think much else needs to be said.
Lastly Simon Mignolet had another influential game. He made a couple of smart saves in the first half as well as pushing aside the Vardy penalty at a crucial juncture in the game. His challenge in conceding the penalty was clumsy but in his defense, he did just about win the ball. I imagine somehow, someway, people will always find a way to complain about Mignolet but on current form he is again saving us points.
Value of Sturridge
I think it needs to be said that Danny Sturridge had an absolutely brilliant cameo in the second half. It was a brave move by Klopp who typically hasn’t brought in the striker when we are holding a lead in the past. What a decision it turned out to be though as his incisive play led to the key third goal by Henderson.
Over the course of the season I just know there will be many more decisive interventions by Sturridge. What an asset he is to have in reserve for us.
Coutinho is Back
It always seemed since his return to action that Philippe Coutinho just needed a goal to truly get him going. He had been pressing hard, almost too hard for one since he pulled the jersey back on. In typical Coutinho fashion, it was of course no tap in and instead a customary free kick. In this day and age where too many set piece “specialists” just smash the modern ball in hope of a knuckle effect, Coutinho is a free kick purist. A nod to the days of free kick artists such as Sinisa Mihajlovic and Juninho Pernambucano.
I never once stopped back Coutinho and I felt it was all worth it after yesterday, and there is of course still so much more to come.
I think it is fair to say that the officiating in yesterday’s match was far from exemplary. Vardy clearly dived in the lead up to their opener, Okazaki clearly held Mignolet down at the corner from which he scored from, Mignolet won enough of the ball not to concede the second penalty, and so on.
In the current landscape it would have been completely understandable for the Reds to capitulate. After all the team can’t have been high on confidence coming into the game. Led heroically by the captain though, the team came through the tough test with 3 hard earned points. In reality we should have been out of sight in the first half but it wasn’t to be.
However, to come away with the win despite the many variables going against them was an impressive display of fortitude which will hopefully kick start the team again.
With Sadio Mané returning from his suspension, things are only going to start looking even better for Liverpool. Yesterday’s match at the King Power was always going to be a tough test and getting the 3 points was all that mattered. The manner though in which the game was won was even more impressive for me. I really feel if we don’t go in search of problems, and just enjoy the games that we are going to have a very exciting season.