Signing off with a big win

Resolute Foxes Dig In For Huge Liverpool Victory

A Leicester City performance defined by willpower and resilience drove the Foxes on to a fraught 1-0 victory over Liverpool on their final Premier League outing of 2021 on Tuesday evening.
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There were five changes to the XI which was defeated at Manchester City on Boxing Day with Timothy Castagne, Wilfred Ndidi, Boubakary Soumaré, Hamza Choudhury and Jamie Vardy coming in for Leicester's final fixture of the calendar year. 

Five of City's outfield players had been on a football pitch, at Etihad Stadium, just 52 hours earlier. Kelechi Iheanacho, on the other hand, was making his 150th appearance for the Club, while Ndidi was once again utilised in a four-man defence – a marker of the Foxes' limited options at present. 

The first opening fell to the Reds. Konstantinos Tsimikas curled the ball into the area and Mohamed Salah nodded it back across goal, straight into Diogo Jota's path, but Daniel Amartey was able to get an essential block in. Soumaré then hit a long-range drive high and wide shortly afterwards. 

Jordan Henderson's volley, from the outskirts of City's area, didn't worry Kasper Schmeichel. The Dane will have been more concerned when Ndidi was adjudged to have tripped Salah in the area and Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. Salah, with 22 goals in 24 appearances this term, stepped up to take it.

The Blue Army were on their feet, though, when Schmeichel made an excellent save to deny the Egyptian, who then nodded a second attempt onto the bar, and hit a third effort off target too. A frantic Leicester counter, led by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, would eventually fizzle out, but the decibel level was rising. 

Midway through the half, Henderson couldn't add the slight touch required onto Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross. It could be argued that miss made it more problematic for Schmeichel. City's No.1 nevertheless scrambled across his line to dig the ball out at the near post before Ndidi hacked it away.

Alarm bells will have been ringing again at the back for the Foxes when Henderson did get a headed touch, onto Sadio Mané's cross, tipping it beyond Luke Thomas and into Jota's reach. Schmeichel made the save again, before the linesman's flag was eventually raised too.

Elsewhere, Vardy burst free – amid suspicions of another offside – but Virgil van Dijk was there to halt Leicester's No.9. Just after the half-hour, a mix-up at the back, between Amartey and Thomas, invited Salah to shoot first time, on the spin. A superb reflex Schmeichel stop prevented him again, though. 

A smart back-heel from Castagne then freed Vardy up in the area, with Joel Matip's block diverting the latter's strike behind. The Foxes faithful reacted to City's graft on the pitch and, at one point, their tackles were being celebrated like goals. They may have been depleted, but they were giving it everything.

City's fans so nearly had an actual goal to celebrate when Maddison's cross skidded across the area, but nobody in blue could get on the end of it. Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner, headed away by Ndidi, was then hit inches over by Henderson from the angle of the 18-yard box.

After the break, neat play between Academy graduates Thomas and Dewsbury-Hall got Leicester on the front foot. A decisive first touch from Dewsbury-Hall and an even better cross seemed perfectly weighted for Vardy, who was lurking on the periphery of the area. Tsimikas, however, poked it away.

A major Liverpool chance was next up. Jota slipped a pass beyond Castagne and teed Mané up. To the disbelief of many, the Senegalese blazed over. The introductions of Youri Tielemans and Ademola Lookman, for Choudhury and Iheanacho, further pumped the capacity crowd up.

They were dancing in the stands just seconds later. Dewsbury-Hall again showed his poise to pick just the right moment for his through ball into Lookman, who took control and cannoned it into Alisson's bottom corner. Delirium around King Power Stadium and two goals in as many games for Lookman.  

An injury to Maddison led to Marc Albrighton taking his place. Leicester were 5-4-1 at times, out of possession, but ready to lurch upfield in an instant. That's exactly what they did on 71 minutes as Albrighton skilfully advanced down the right channel, as Vardy and Matip came together in the centre. 

It was a concern for Brendan Rodgers, who had made all three substitutions, but City's No.9 was able to return to the action after treatment. With 10 minutes to go, after Ndidi's trip on Mané, Alexander-Arnold picked out the run of Salah, but the former Roma forward's volley fizzed over Schmeichel's bar.

Jota then glanced a Tsimikas corner wide. For all of Leicester fight and dedication, Liverpool were matching it, but King Power Stadium was rocking. An enormous effort was needed to see the Foxes through and the Blue Army were playing their part in the late December chill.

Another crucial stop from Schmeichel, with his left foot at the near post, pushed van Dijk's low drive behind. Mané then inadvertently took a golden opportunity to head home away from Jota inside the six-yard box. Whether it was Amartey, Castagne, Ndidi, Thomas or Albrighton, blocks were flying in.

As five minutes of added time were announced, Thomas turned to the supporters behind Leicester's goal, imploring them to maintain their vocal support. Heroic defending, including a desperate header from Thomas was next, before Amartey turned Mané's shot around the post also.

Alisson was up for the corner but it flew over him and off target, via Matip's head. This time it was Dewsbury-Hall geeing the fans up. Whistles howled around the four corners of Filbert Way until, finally, it was the referee's whistle which unleashed a deafening full-time roar evoking memories of famous nights in Leicester.

While the three points will be particularly welcome for Rodgers and his players, the significance of these three points was huge, coming after such a demanding period in their season, draining individuals and denting the size of Leicester's match-fit squad. A reason to cheer at the end of 2021.

Major moment

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Ademola Lookman

Leicester's No.37 riffles home the winner for his side in the second half at King Power Stadium.

While so many of the defensive interventions, or indeed Kasper Schmeichel's fine penalty save, could easily qualify as the game's most significant moment – as City became the first team to keep a clean sheet against Liverpool all season – Ademola Lookman's strike supercharged the atmosphere on Filbert Way.

Who impressed?

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Luke Thomas

Youngster Luke Thomas stood up to the fearsome assignment and excelled at left-back on Tuesday night.

Former captain Matt Elliott, a winner of the League Cup in 2000, told LCFC Radio: "Luke Thomas. It was a daunting prospect for him tonight. He was up against Mo Salah let's not forget, but he was putting his body on the line and giving everything tonight. A brilliant performance."

Where do we stand?

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Brendan Rodgers

Manager Brendan Rodgers turns to Kolo Touré to toast a big three points for the Foxes.

The Foxes climb to ninth in the Premier League standings with 25 points from 18 matches, three adrift of European berths.

Coming up...

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The Blue Army

The Foxes were roared over the line by the home supporters at King Power Stadium.

After signing off a calendar year which included FA Cup glory and a second FA Community Shield in the Club's history, Leicester begin the new one with the visit of Norwich City on New Year's Day (3pm kick-off). Watford are next up on Filbert Way in the third round of the FA Cup next Saturday (3pm kick-off).

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