After the referee blew for full-time, Leicester City goalkeeper Mads Hermansen must surely have breathed a sigh of relief. Liverpool romped to a 4-0 victory over Leicester City at the National Stadium, but it could have been much more.
Liverpool produced an unerring performance that was reminiscent of the last time the two teams met near the tail end of last season. Leicester might be slightly concerned at the similarities in poorness between today’s match and last season’s, where they ungracefully bowed out of the Premier League 7 years after winning it.
But it wasn’t all bad from the team in black and blue. In fact, Leicester City started pretty brightly as they threatened the Liverpool end first.
Leicester youngster Kasey McAteer manages to get on the wrong side of centre-back Ibrahima Konaté and slides a pass to Wilfred Ndidi, who has surprisingly made his way into the box from his defensive midfield position. It requires an alert Caoimhín Kelleher to stop it from being a goal.
For the opening 25 minutes, Liverpool only had 45% possession and were uncharacteristically sloppy. During that period, Leicester City fired another warning shot as Ndidi manages to get through the Liverpool defence and squares the ball to another Leicester player, which Virgil van Dijk had to clear.
That being said, Liverpool crafted chances of their own as well. The most dangerous one came from a curving shot from star man Mohamed Salah that Hermansen palms away. It was end-to-end action from both teams in the opening stages; delighting the 28,597-strong crowd.
Eventually, it was Liverpool who got the breakthrough. Diogo Jota picks up a pass from Alexis Mac Allister and spins past two defenders before angling a shot into the bottom corner. The keeper manages to get a hand on it, but could only palm it into the path of Darwin Núñez who slots it into the back of the net.
Núñez has been lethal during this preseason, with this being his fourth goal in 3 games. Liverpool fans will be hoping this form continues into the actual season, given his mixed campaign last season.
Soon, it was two. Liverpool work it up from midfield and get it to Salah, who tees the ball to Bobby Clark to pass it into the bottom corner.
Salah was again the architect for the third goal. He crosses the ball into the box for Jota to head home. In less than 10 minutes, Leicester City were 3-0 down, new boss Enzo Maresca will be frustrated at how Leicester were not aggressive enough and let Liverpool up the field so easily.
With Liverpool on the ascendancy, the second half began in one-sided fashion — a far cry from Leicester’s first-half performance. They were consistently sloppy on the ball and could not handle Liverpool’s press.
There were chances galore in the opening minutes as Liverpool parked in front of the Leicester final third. Dominik Szoboszlai even had the opportunity to try an audacious chip from near the halfway line, nearly catching the keeper out.
The pressure soon got to Leicester as the Reds scored their fourth goal. Szoboszlai’s accurate corner found Joel Matip who flicked it to the back post for Ben Doak to head into the back of the net.
For all of Liverpool’s dominance, Leicester, to their credit, at least tried to end it off on a positive note.
Their one chance in the half came from a long ball that caught out Liverpool’s back line. Ndidi latches onto it and squares to the onrushing Patson Daka but is denied by a last-ditch block by academy player Jarell Quansah. After recycling the ball, they go close with a shot from Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall that goes just wide.
Leicester City survive the remaining onslaught until the final whistle, with a roar erupting from the delighted travelling fans.
The match teased a rejuvenated Liverpool team to watch ahead of the upcoming season, with the midfield engine purring as it led the attacking display. However, thoughts on the defensive performance will be on the back of Jürgen Klopp’s mind after that slow start in the first half.
Meanwhile, there is much to ponder for Leicester City. The hiring of ex-Manchester City assistant Maresca may be seen as a way to adopt the same possession-based football as the all-conquering Pep Guardiola, but ultimately it seems that it will be a long process as defensive issues remain.
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Photos by Brandon Neo and Lau Lup Yun of the DANAMIC Team.