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5 talking points as Liverpool collapse at Leicester puts top-four bid in doubt

Leicester produced a remarkable late comeback to condemn Premier League champions Liverpool to a third consecutive defeat and leave the Reds sweating on a top-four finish.

Liverpool dominated for much of the first hour and took the lead through Mohamed Salah’s curling strike in the 67th minute.

But James Maddison’s fizzing free kick equalised in the 78th minute, prompting the visitors to collapse dramatically at the King Power.

A mix-up between Alisson and Ozan Kabak gifted Jamie Vardy the simplest of finishes to give the Foxes the lead. Minutes later, Harvey Barnes burst through on goal to score a third.

The result means Liverpool’s top-four bid has been derailed and they could end up as low as eighth in the table if the teams below them win their games in hand.

Here are five talking points from the King Power.

1. Kabak’s debut

Kabak started at right centre-back with Henderson as his partner

Ozan Kabak made his first start for Liverpool since joining the Reds on a six-month loan from Schalke.

The 20-year-old lined up to the right of Jordan Henderson in the centre-back pairing, with the latter continuing to fill in after a fresh injury to Fabinho.

Henderson stole the limelight in the opening stages with a stunning diagonal ball to Mohamed Salah in behind in the 10th minute.

But Kabak grew in confidence as the first half wore on and began to be more ambitious with his passing – albeit to mixed success.

Leicester’s attacking midfielders took turns to try and drag the youngster out of position and for the most part he stood his ground and held a good line with his defensive colleagues.

Kabak made some good challenges in the second half and was unfortunate to receive a yellow card.

But his debut will be remembered for an unfortunate mix-up with Alisson, when he took out the onrushing goalkeeper and the ball fell straight to Jamie Vardy to trot through on goal and finish.

Kabak also could have done better for Leicester’s third goal, with Harvey Barnes breezing past him to finish powerfully into the far post.

2. Another Alisson catastrophe

Alisson suffered another catastrophe
Alisson suffered another catastrophe

Jurgen Klopp sent a reassuring message to Alisson ahead of the match, insisting the goalkeeper had the backing of all of his Liverpool teammates after his nightmare outing against Manchester City.

And if Alisson was nervous at the King Power, he did not show it; the Brazilian was out off his line to snuff out a through-ball in the third minute and cleared with a lofted ball to Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Alisson was also equal to the efforts he faced from Jamie Vardy in the first half and was alert to snatch the ball from the striker’s toes after Jordan Henderson’s poor header.

But when it rains, it pours, and Alisson’s erratic decision to come out and clear a looping ball was punished as Leicester took the lead.

The shot-stopper collided with Ozan Kabak and who else was the ball going to fall to than the man who is always in the right place at the right time: Jamie Vardy, who was able to walk the ball into the net.

Alisson somewhat redeemed himself by making a fantastic double save after Leicester went 2-1 up, but could do little about Harvey Barnes’ powerful effort just moments later.

3. Rodgers forced to shuffle defence

Amartey did a good job of keeping Mane quiet in the first half
Amartey did a good job of keeping Mane quiet in the first half

Leicester were dealt a major injury blow ahead of the visit of Liverpool, as James Justin was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The young defender was enjoying a fine season and the cruel timing of the blow ends his hopes of earning a spot in England’s squad for the Euros.

Justin’s injury also left Leicester short of options at full-back, with summer-signing Timothy Castagne also ruled out with a thigh injury.

In response, Brendan Rodgers shifted Ricardo Pereira to the left and Daniel Amartey slotted in at right-back for his fourth Premier League start of the season.

The Foxes’ weakness at full-back was targeted by Liverpool from the off and Mohamed Salah was particularly threatening up against Pereira the opening stages. On the other flank, Amartey did a fine job of keeping Sadio Mane quiet.

When Liverpool did burst through or cross into the box, centre-backs Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans were excellent at mopping up the danger.

It was another impressive defensive display for Leicester which, when combined with their plethora of talented attackers, shows just why they are likely to finish in the Champions League spots.

4. More injury woes for Reds

Milner suffered an injury and was withdrawn in the 17th minute
Milner suffered an injury and was withdrawn in the 17th minute

Liverpool have been hit hard by injuries all season – and there has been no sign of that letting up over the last week.

Fabinho was ruled out of the trip to Leicester with his third injury of the season, with Jurgen Klopp confirming in midweek that Diogo Jota and Naby Keita are still some weeks away from full fitness.

There was more bad work on the day of the match as January signing Ben Davies and striker Divock Origi were ruled out.

Liverpool’s woes were compounded as James Milner limped off in the 17th minute at the King Power to be replaced by Thiago Alcantara.

The veteran midfielder’s latest complaint swells Liverpool’s injured ranks to double figures and presents Klopp with yet more selection headaches ahead of crunch fixtures with RB Leipzig and Everton.

5. Top-four impact

Liverpool’s torrid run in 2021 has not just derailed their title bid, but also their hopes of finishing in the Champions League spots.

Victory at the King Power would have seen the Reds leapfrog Leicester to go third, but defeat means they could end up as far down the table as eighth – should the teams below them win their games in hand.

Serious questions will be asked of Jurgen Klopp over the coming days.

Liverpool controlled the match for the first 60 minutes but James Maddison’s equaliser knocked the stuffing out of them.

Last season’s ‘mentality monsters’ now look vulnerable and the belief seeped out of the Reds as Jamie Vardy walked the ball in to give Leicester the lead.

Crucially, Liverpool never seem likely to hit back in the closing stages as they did so often over the last two seasons.

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