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No swagger or statement of intent from careless Reds

James Pearce Reaction to Liverpool's 2-1 triumph at Leicester

You could spend the next fortnight picking the bones out of this performance.

Liverpool were careless in all departments at the King Power Stadium - a million miles away from their fluent best.

But there is only one statistic that really matters: the Reds boast 12 points out of 12.
For the first time since 1990/91 Liverpool have won their opening four matches to a top-flight campaign.

Jurgen Klopp's side haven't done it with a swagger. They haven't delivered a booming statement of intent to champions Manchester City.

But what they have done is showcase a new-found ability to grind out results when they aren't functioning well enough to simply blow opponents away. “We won ugly,” was vice-captain James Milner's honest assessment after they held on to beat Leicester City.

Midway through the second half their backs were pinned firmly against the wall. A lead given to them by first-half goals from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino had been halved following Alisson Becker's blunder. Chaos reigned.
The Brazil No 1 got away with it when he played Russian Roulette against Brighton a week earlier, but this time his gung-ho approach with the ball at his feet proved costly.

Substitute Kelechi Iheanacho picked his pocket and Rachid Ghezzal provided Claude Puel's side with a lifeline. Alisson kicked the post in disgust. It was a farcical way for the £65million keeper to concede the first goal of his Liverpool career after three successive clean sheets.

Briefly, Liverpool wobbled. Composure was conspicuous by its absence as an irate Klopp repeatedly called for calm on the touchline.

Their decision making at times was atrocious but Klopp got his substitutions spot on as the introduction of Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita helped to steady the ship.
The Reds' outstanding performer was Joe Gomez, who dealt brilliantly with the threat of Demarai Gray and produced a goal-saving block to thwart James Maddison.
The young centre-back's recall to the England fold is richly deserved and Klopp must hope that Gareth Southgate looks after him.

It promises to be an anxious period for the Reds boss as his players jet off around the globe on international duty.

On their return we will learn a lot more about the credentials of this Liverpool side. The room for improvement is vast and they will need to raise the bar significantly with Tottenham next up at Wembley on September 15.

After that there is no let-up with clashes against Paris Saint-Germain, Southampton, Chelsea, Napoli and Manchester City prior to the October international break. The much lauded depth of this squad will be tested.

It's certainly a mouthwatering prospect what this team will be capable of when they finally click. The fact is that Liverpool have won four on the bounce with the potent trio of Mohamed Salah, Mane and Firmino only sporadically coming to life.

'Just like Forest you live in the past,' crowed the Leicester fans in the direction of the travelling Kop early on, seemingly unaware that Liverpool reached the Champions League final four months ago and sit top of the Premier League table.

Buoyant Kopites are loving the here and now and there was plenty to admire about the Reds' flying start. Leicester couldn't deal with the searing pace and intelligent movement of Klopp's frontline.

Salah played in Firmino, whose shot was unconvincingly kept out by Kasper Schmeichel. The rebound dropped perfectly for Salah but inexplicably he side-footed wide. It was a bad miss for someone of his calibre.

Unperturbed, the Reds continued to press and Salah's mood was lifted by the sight of Mane drilling home inside 10 minutes.
The opener was testament to the desire and tenacity of Andy Robertson down the left. After running into Ricardo Pereira, the Scottish full-back latched on to the loose ball and picked out Mane.

The Senegal international, who was strangely below par against Brighton a week earlier, controlled and finished emphatically for his fourth goal of the season.
Leicester barely got out of their own half during the opening quarter as recalled captain Jordan Henderson kept Liverpool firmly on the front foot.
However, the Reds' control on proceedings loosened as the hosts belatedly came to life. The Foxes started to exert some pressure of their own as they hunted in packs and forced Klopp's side to repeatedly cough up possession cheaply.

In the absence of Jamie Vardy, Gray led the line but Gomez was equal to the challenge as he used his strength and power wisely. He's growing in stature with every game in his favoured central position.

When Gray did get away from him after a pass from Ghezzal, Alisson came to the rescue with a fine save and Gomez was alert to hack to safety.
James Maddison fired over and Ben Chilwell forced a low save as Liverpool weathered the storm and then stunned Leicester just before the break.

Milner's corner was inviting and Firmino got away from Maddison to power a header into the bottom corner. It was Milner's 80 Premier League assist – only six players have ever contributed more.

The second half was best viewed from behind the sofa. Liverpool were ragged, their passing sloppy as they caused problems for themselves.
When Maddison got away from Virgil van Dijk and Robertson, he looked destined to score but Gomez came to the rescue.
Even the usually ice-cool Van Dijk looked rattled at times as he was booked for hacking down Maddison.
Wes Morgan made a mess of a chance from close range before Alisson took centre stage.

Klopp insisted Van Dijk had done him no favours with the backpass but the keeper could have hammered it up field with a minimum of fuss. Instead he tried to be too clever and was left with egg on his face.

The mood inside the King Power was transformed. Leicester had the best part of half an hour to find an equaliser.

Henderson faded as the Foxes started to turn the screw in midfield. Klopp reacted by bringing on Sha
qiri and Keita for Henderson and Salah.
Shaqiri produced an intelligent cameo as he looked after the ball and helped run down the clock.
Liverpool survived a nervy finale. It's four out of four with the handbrake on. It's been some start but better days lie ahead.

MATCH FACTS

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Pereira, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Mendy, Ndidi, Ghezzal, Albrighton (Iheanacho 61), Maddison (Amartey 83), Gray (Okazaki 76).
Not used: Ward, Evans, Iborra, Fuchs.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Matip 88), Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Henderson (Keita 71), Wijnaldum, Mane, Salah (Shaqiri 71), Firmino.
Not used: Mignolet, Sturridge, Moreno, Lallana.

Referee: Paul Tierney
Attendance: 32,114

Goals: Mane 10, Firmino 45, Ghezzal 63
Bookings: Ghezzal, Mendy, Ndidi, Van Dijk, Milner. 

Man of the match: Joe Gomez. Made a goal-saving block as the young defender maintained his excellent start to the season.

Copyright - The Liverpool Echo

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