Liverpool miss chance to move seven points clear of Manchester City with Leicester draw
Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw by Leicester
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 30/01/19 11:01pm
Liverpool missed the chance to move seven points clear of Manchester City as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Leicester. The title is still in their hands but will they rue this missed opportunity?
As Liverpool and Leicester entered first-half stoppage time at Anfield, it seemed the hosts were on their way to what would have been their most significant victory of the season. Sadio Mane's early goal separated the sides, the first step towards opening up a seven-point gap on Manchester City, but Harry Maguire's sudden equaliser changed the course of the game.
Whether it changes the course of the title race remains to be seen. The draw moved Liverpool five points clear following Manchester City's surprise loss to Newcastle on Tuesday, but knowing that gap could have been wider, it is impossible to ignore the feeling that this was a missed opportunity.
It seemed Leicester were there for the taking, too. They had lost their last three consecutive games - the most recent, against Wolves, in crushing fashion - but this was a reminder, if it was needed, that the Premier League is rarely predictable and the title race is far from run.
Like City on Tuesday night, Liverpool started in blistering fashion, breaking the deadlock after just three minutes when Mane eluded Demarai Gray in the Leicester box before sending a low shot beyond Kasper Schmeichel and into the bottom corner.
James Maddison's header wide midway through the half was a warning to the hosts, but they were largely comfortable. The team had a patched-up feel, with Jordan Henderson used at right-back, but even on one occasion when he was caught out of position early on, Joel Matip was alert to halt Leicester's counter-attack with a foul on the halfway line.
Liverpool were coping, in other words, and they looked up for it, too, their determination summed up by Mohamed Salah haring after a long ball and forcing Ben Chilwell to concede a throw deep in his own half in the 40th minute. They were not creating chances with their usual fluency, but there was little to suggest they would be denied victory.
That changed after the equaliser, with Leicester the better team after the two sides emerged from the break. Five minutes into the second half, Maddison found himself with a clear sight of goal from an acute angle, only to cross rather than shoot. Soon after that, Alisson was forced into a vital block on his line after Maguire headed a free-kick across goal.
Liverpool gradually regained their composure, seeing a penalty appeal turned down when Naby Keita appeared to be felled by Ricardo Pereira in the box, but the fact that they didn't manage a single shot on goal between the 36th minute and the 74th minute, when Roberto Firmino was denied by Schmeichel, showed the dip in their performance.
Liverpool did not labour as badly as City at St James' Park. They did at least manage to put the visitors under sustained pressure in the closing stages. But by the final whistle they had only mustered three shots on target - their second-lowest total of the season so far.
Both Liverpool and Manchester City need to find the right response to ensure their respective setbacks do not turn into something more serious, but their fixture lists suggest there is likely to be more drama.
Klopp's men face West Ham next on Monday Night Football, followed by a home clash with Bournemouth, who showed their mettle with their 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea on Wednesday night. After that, it's a trip to Old Trafford to face a resurgent Manchester United a few days after their Champions League meeting with Bayern Munich.
It's a demanding schedule but City's is even tougher. Pep Guardiola's side host Arsenal on Super Sunday, before a trip to Goodison Park to play Everton and a clash with Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium. On top of their Champions League tie with Schalke - and unlike Liverpool - City also have FA Cup and League Cup commitments to contend with.
It is impossible to say quite how the Premier League table will look after the key period which is now approaching - or, indeed, whether Liverpool will end up paying for their missed opportunity against Leicester. But if this week has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. There are sure to be more twists in the title race to come.