Leicester 2-0 Liverpool Five Things: fortune favours the Foxes

Shinji Okazaki – mirror.co.uk

Leicester moved into the fourth round of the EFL Cup with a 2-0 win over Liverpool, thanks to an improved second half performance and goals from key substitute Shinji Okazaki and Islam Slimani. Here’s five talking points from the game.

Shakespeare’s surprising selection

Craig Shakespeare picked big strikers Leonardo Ulloa and Islam Slimani, hoping to expose Liverpool’s set piece weaknesses. However, in adapting to the opposition, he compromised a lot of what Leicester are naturally good at. Neither Slimani nor Ulloa are capable of running in behind or pressing the ball, meaning that support was needed both in and out of possession. With only four men in midfield though, any time they tried to press up the pitch, they left space in behind. Georginio Wijnaldum’s 16th minute run led to a Liverpool chance for the lively Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who fired over from just outside the box.

Liverpool’s impressive left

Philipe Coutinho’s presence drew Daniel Amartey and Marc Albrighton inside to deny him space, meaning that Andrew Robertson had plenty of ground to himself on the left flank. The ex-Hull full-back’s crosses led to Liverpool’s better chances, Oxlade-Chamberlain seeing his close-range shot blocked by Ben Chilwell, before Dominic Solanke couldn’t make the contact he was hoping for. Despite the good movement of the Reds’ front trio – and Robertson’s runs – the end product eluded them.

Leicester’s blessing in disguise

Shortly after the interval, Ulloa picked up an injury and was subsequently replaced by Shinji Okazaki. The Japanese forward provided the hassling qualities Leicester had not had from Ulloa, winning the ball within seconds of coming on. He also occupied a deeper role meaning that the Foxes had a system more akin to 4-4-1-1, so central midfielders Vincente Iborra and Wilfred Ndidi had less ground to cover. The team stopped their visitors playing out from the back as easily as they had in the first half and therefore got a foothold.

Slimani improved

The physical presence of Slimani, now used to his strengths and Wes Morgan, up for a set piece, came to the fore. The latter knocked the ball down for Okazaki to finish low into the bottom left-hand corner on 65 minutes. Slimani also looked far more comfortable after the substitution and the Algerian scored the second goal 12 minutes after the first, curling into the top left hand corner. Demarai Gray, who also improved after the break, could have grabbed a late third after a cross-field ball from Albrighton but his curling effort was tipped away by Danny Ward.

In summary

Liverpool’s defeat means they can put more energy into their Premier League and Champions League campaigns. With titles in either competition unlikely though, crashing out of the EFL Cup could prolong their wait for a trophy under Jurgen Klopp’s reign. This was an important win for Leicester, whose owners have earmarked this competition as a potential route into Europe. Their victory though was almost entirely down to Liverpool’s wasteful first half finishing and the unplanned introduction of Okazaki, which suggests fortune favoured them.