A dogged Leicester painted Liverpool as the team without rest or nine first-team players on Tuesday night as Ademola Lookman’s winner sliced through their festive feeling and title tilt.
Against the odds, the extent of their absentees, and their exertions in a 6-3 loss to Manchester City, Brendan Rodgers’ men pulled off an unexpected triumph in the space of 48 hours, ribboned with a rare clean sheet.
They will have expected plenty more punch from a full-strength Liverpool who had Boxing Day off, but were seriously jaded. Jurgen Klopp’s men were slow, unsure and largely sleepwalking through the encounter.
Liverpool, their spine of Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho restored following a Covid-enforced absence, will have had sympathy for Leicester operating minus their first-choice back four. The Merseysiders had Jordan Henderson and debutant Ozan Kabak in the heart of defence during their last league visit to King Power Stadium in February, where their lack of stability was punished 3-1.
Rodgers opted to field Wilfred Ndidi and Daniel Amartey as his centre-back pairing, with Jannik Vestergaard on the bench. A side with just two clean sheets this season had their work cut out trying to thwart the visitors, who hit the 50 league goal mark this season for the fastest time in their top-flight history. The match didn’t quite care for convention or the script.
Leicester began their challenge well with Amartey blocking from Diogo Jota, but Ndidi needlessly impeded Salah with an outstretched leg in the box on 14 minutes.
Atypically, the Egyptian didn’t celebrate a successful spot-kick with Kasper Schmeichel springing to his right and thwarting it with a strong hand. The effort lacked venom from Salah, and his header off the rebound rocked the bar.
Schmeichel, with plenty of penalty practice in the last week in the League Cup shootout defeat to Liverpool and failing to save two in the epic against Manchester City, produced another vital intervention.
A defensive mess between Ndidi and Luke Thomas rolled out the welcome mat for a Salah snap shot from an acute angle. Schmeichel reacted sharply, tipping it over the bar with his right glove and diverting its trajectory into the top corner.