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Leicester’s late onslaught leaves error-strewn Liverpool shellshocked

Another week, another awful moment for Alisson Becker, another defeat for Liverpool. A restorative clean sheet had beckoned, then a draw when he would have at least been blameless. But instead Ozan Kabak capped a sadly hapless Liverpool debut by trying to hook Youri Tielemans’ long ball away as Alisson charged out of his box. They collided amid confusion.

Jamie Vardy was left to walk the ball into an unguarded net. Instead of going ahead of Leicester, Liverpool slipped behind them. They may end Monday out of the top four. Jurgen Klopp replaces Brendan Rodgers as the last Liverpool manager to lose three consecutive league games. Liverpool began 2021 top of the league, but ended the game in meltdown. Six-time champions of Europe can rue seven minutes of madness.

It may get lost in the bigger picture but Alisson made a brilliant double save from Harvey Barnes and Vardy, but it was a sign of how easily Liverpool were being opened up. He was still beaten for a third time when Barnes accelerated clear to slide in Leicester’s third. Rodgers had his first win against Liverpool since being sacked by them. Klopp has a host of problems.

He had dropped his flagship signing, Thiago Alcantara, only to summon him when James Milner limped off. That proved pivotal an hour later. The game turned on a moment that appeared a reprieve for Liverpool. Anthony Taylor awarded Leicester a penalty for Thiago’s foul on Barnes; VAR ruled it was fractionally outside the box and a triumph of technology.

Yet James Maddison took the resulting free kick and curled it into the bottom corner. This time the verdict was offside, against Daniel Amartey, who had almost connected with the ball. This time VAR worked in Leicester’s favour, determining that Roberto Firmino, who never scored for Rodgers, had played him onside. To add to the chaos, the PA announcer gave the goal to Amartey when it was Maddison’s.

It was the first of three goals in swift succession They led courtesy of a glorious strike fashioned by the ingenuity of Firmino and finished with the incision of Mohamed Salah. The Brazilian backheeled the ball in the box to his fellow attacker. Salah supplied a classic Salah shot, whipped into the far corner. The sense was that it would take something special to beat Kasper Schmeichel and, after Trent Alexander-Arnold hit the bar with a deflected free kick, Liverpool supplied it.

But the warning signs were there. Liverpool had looked better in attack and bright going forward, but they had a soft underbelly. Signing more centre-backs means Liverpool have more to get injured; Ben Davies became the fifth man sidelined. Kabak, who exchanged Schalke’s seemingly doomed relegation battle for Liverpool’s quest to qualify for the top four, debuted. Given the sub-zero temperatures, it is perhaps inappropriate to call it a baptism of fire.

But it was a bow to remember for the wrong reasons. There are mitigating factors. Kabak was parachuted into a new team, alongside a converted midfielder, against a razor-sharp striker who has tormented many a more experienced defender. Kabak lost Vardy when the striker improvised an outside-of-the-boot volley that had too much elevation. He may have been doubly at fault when the 34-year-old hit the bar, first allowing Vardy to escape him and then slipping as challenged Maddison, whose flick released Vardy. Not that he was alone in that: Vardy evaded Jordan Henderson to head at Alisson. He latched on to the captain’s weak back header, accelerating clear, only for Alisson to block his shot.

It felt remarkable that Vardy had not scored, until it felt ridiculous how he scored. But it summed up Liverpool’s week, Alisson’s errors and Kabak’s introduction.

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