Liverpool defeat Leicester 4-0 to make a huge statement in the Premier League title race
Liverpool verdict - Reds answer big question to put Premier League trophy engravers on standby
By Paul Gorst Liverpool FC correspondent
22:38, 26 DEC 2019
The Christmas leftovers may still be on the plates, but Liverpool already have the Premier League's trophy engraver on standby.
For the first time in the competition's 28-year existence, the name Liverpool is looking more likely than ever to be written onto it. This was the biggest indication yet that this virtually flawless Reds team are set to end a painful, overdue wait to be crowned champions of England.
From the first whistle, Liverpool exerted their vast superiority on proceedings at the King Power, making light of any cross-continent travelling they have recently undertaken.
Ex-Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has exceeded all expectations at Leicester since taking charge in February. He has turned a team middling through the motions to one that is currently the closest challenger to this runaway Liverpool team.
Reds fans will know more than any how an energised and motivated Rodgers team can launch an unlikely title challenge in the second half of the season, so avoiding defeat at the end of a gruelling month of football was, to many, the simple order of the day before kick-off.
That, however, was never going to be the summit of Liverpool's ambition in Leicestershire, despite the circumstances of a packed December.
Energy was sapped and legs grew weary in Doha as the world champions were made to work for that title with two bruising games against Monterrey and Flamengo, so the very next game away at the team in second place would not have been on Jurgen Klopp's Christmas wishlist.
The big question for Liverpool was how the intriguing Club World Cup subplot would affect the players as they notched up their eighth of nine games this month. It was a quizzer that was answered emphatically as they turned in a simply stunning performance to blow away their hosts in some style.
Title rivals? Not a chance. Leicester didn't land a glove as the visitors pummeled them for 90 punishing minutes. Given the significance of the match and the draining run that had preceded it, this here must surely go down as one of the best showings of Klopp's reign at Anfield.
Liverpool have one more game to negotiate before the New Year and just two points have been dropped so far. It's 52 points from just 18 played. Numbers that are hard to comprehend. It is why they find themselves 13 points clear of the nearest competitor.
Liverpool started brightly and should have went a goal up inside the first few moments but Sadio Mane somehow conspired to hook Mohamed Salah's cross wide from about three yards out. The Senegal star attacked it with the wrong foot and missed the target with it at his mercy.
Salah then wasted a good opportunity before Jordan Henderson's deflected effort had Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel scrambling inside the first 15 minutes. Concerns over fatigue levels were brushed aside as Liverpool attacked and pressed like it was day one of the campaign.
Eventually, the visitors had the lead when Alexander-Arnold shaped a teasing, textbook delivery into the path of both Salah and Firmino who waited in oceans of space at the back post. It was the latter who got there first, though, nodding past Schmeichel.
It's been a curious season for the Brazil international, Without a goal at Anfield this season amid a two-month drought at any ground earlier this year, he now has five in just over a month and four in his last three, including a history-making winning goal in the final of the Club World Cup.
The man who makes that attack tick, Firmino is now up to eight for the season as he starts to add the goals to his impeccable all-round play.
Mane should have had his second and Liverpool's third moments of the opener but fired straight at Schmeichel when clean through.
Liverpool continued to press high and harry their hosts out of possession as the Foxes struggled to get a foothold in the game. Rodgers' men were unable to get out of their own half, never mind think about putting together anything resembling a dangerous attack for pretty much all the second half.
Leicester finally stirred, briefly, around the hour mark as the Premier League's top scorer Jamie Vardy given a chance to run at the Liverpool defence. With the Foxes starting to get their tails up, Klopp sent on James Milner and Divock Origi for Salah and Naby Keita.
And within seconds, Milner's first touch made it 2-0 to the Reds from the penalty spot. As Leicester attempted to defend a corner, centre-back Caglar Soyuncu handled the ball to give the substitute an instant chance from 12 yards.
The second undoubtedly took the wind out of any Leicester fightback but they would be made to suffer more as the Reds ran riot.
First Firmino made it 3-0 as he dispatched Alexander-Arnold's low cross cooly for his second of the night before Alexander-Arnold capped a fine individual performance with a stunning breakaway goal.
Meeting a counter-attack head on down the right, the 21-year-old smashed it low past Schmeichel with a clean hit to give Liverpool an unassailable lead in the game, and maybe, in the season.
If Liverpool do not end this league campaign with winners' medals, it will now surely rank as the most calamitous collapse in Anfield history. It is not something that looks likely as we edge towards the beginning of a new decade.
The roaring 20s could very well be upon Liverpool supporters. Tired? They won't hear a word of it. Champions of Europe. Champions of the world. And champions, in all likelihood, of England, too.
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