The match technically extended Liverpool’s lead at the top to five points, but given Manchester City lost last night this was a blown chance for the Reds to move three games ahead of Pep Guardiola’s men. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Harry Maguire
It’s hard to quantify just how massive Harry Maguire is. He regularly looks like a grown man playing with children, because he dwarfs his opponents and team-mates so much. That size would be enough of a weapon, making him an old-school powerhouse centre-back ala Ryan Shawcross or someone like that – but Maguire is a player of great quality.
Tonight against Liverpool he was defensively imperious, clearing crosses, making blocks, and generally being an impassable object in the way of the Reds. And then with the ball he showed his skills when he ran in behind the Liverpool defence to calmly slot the ball past Alisson (with his feet, not his massive head) on the volley. He conquered Anfield with the deftest of touches.
Half Man. Half Mountain. Harry Maguire.
You hate to make weather-based generalisations about foreign players in the Premier League, but you have to wonder if Alisson has ever had much experience playing in the snow because tonight he looked as bad as he ever has in a Liverpool shirt.
It wasn’t so much that he was bad, a goalkeeper can always be bad, but he’s looked negligent. The Brazilian goalkeeper played the Reds into danger on more than one occasion, looking far from the assured presence he usually does. There was one great save (from a Roberto Firmino deflection) but for the first time, he looked more likely to make a mistake than not.
You imagine Manchester City’s owners will be buying snow machines for every single Premier League club. Anything to get an edge!
Winner: Sadio Mané
When it comes to Liverpool’s illustrious front three, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino soak up most of the praise. Yet so often it is Sadio Mané who most often shows up when the side are really struggling. In the 2018 Champions League final, for instance, it was Mané who led Liverpool’s comeback even before Salah’s injury.
Then tonight against Leicester once again the Senegalese was Liverpool’s go-to man. He scored a wonderfully well-taken goal just seconds into the game, driving into the box and bending the ball around Kasper Schmeichel to notch his 10th Premier League goal of the season. And for the rest of the game, as Salah and Firmino kind of drifted through proceedings, Mané was Liverpool’s catalyst.
Loser: Liverpool’s defenders
For the most part, Virgil van Dijk has been flawless since signing for Liverpool. So has Andrew Robertson. Both men have become Liverpool’s new defensive anchors, to the point where the other two members of the defence have been able to chop and change and the Reds have maintained their great defensive power. But against Leicester? These gods looked mortal.
The Dutch defender struggled when handling the mountainous Harry Maguire. Quite how you “lose” a man as big as Maguire is confusing, but Van Dijk managed to do it when Ben Chilwell headed a ball back into Liverpool’s box. Van Dijk was ball-watching, unaware as Maguire ran in behind him and slotted Leicester level.
And the lead-up to that goal came from a free-kick that Andrew Robertson gave away needlessly. And Robertson, who is usually so reliable in attack and defence, failed to contain the threat of Marc Albrighton. After the Englishman moved out wide, he found the space and time to terrorise Liverpool on the break. A rare poor showing from Liverpool’s defensive dynamos.
Winner: Manchester City
When Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City lost 2-1 away to Newcastle United, many assumed the Premier League title race was over. After all, a Liverpool win would see them move seven points clear, as a three-game swing would surely be too much to expect.
But now Liverpool have failed to win, they’ve dropped points. Now, technically, Liverpool have extended their lead over City. But because they only did so by one point, it’s still just a two-game swing which is a much more manageable difference. Moreover, Liverpool looked genuinely nervous playing under the pressure of “killing” the league, which only bodes well for City as we enter the run-in and every game becomes imbued with this level of expectation and pressure.
Loser: James Maddison
Leicester got a great draw at Anfield. A genuinely impressive point. However they should have won the game. Seriously. As great as Liverpool have been this season, they were so poor in phases tonight and Maddison had their fate in his hands. Well, his head.
A cross came in from the right and Maddison had made a superb run. He was unmarked and just six yards from goal, most of the pace was on the cross and all he had to do was guide it into the back of the net. But he somehow put it wide.
It wasn’t Maddison’s only miss, he managed to get just a few yards from goal on the corner of the six yard box before crossing instead of burying it in the roof of the net. But that was almost understandable, forgivable. The header was shocking and you have to wonder who’d be more frustrated by it: Maddison himself, Claude Puel or Pep Guardiola.