‘Fearless’ is a word that was often used to describe Leicester City’s attitude in their title winning run last season. A side that was only expected to stay up in the Premier League, Leicester managed not just to do that but stay above all teams in the league. It was the ultimate underdog story and everyone, except perhaps for Tottenham fans, were rooting for them and smiling with them as they lifted the Premier League trophy in May 2016.
Foxes hence started as Premier League champions and probably the most loved team in the league. Even as it became apparent that they won’t come anywhere close to retaining the title, the general hope was that the Leicester fairy-tale shouldn’t end with the worst possible result in the very next season. Fast forward to the week just before their match against Liverpool on Tuesday and players such as Kasper Schmeichel, Jamie Vardy and Wes Morgan were being looked upon as back stabbers. They were vilified by reports in the media of the alleged role they played in the sensational sacking of Claudio Ranieri, who was the man at the helm when Leicester won the title. Suddenly, people on social media started talking about how much they wanted to see Leicester getting relegated and how much the greatest story in football history was turning sour in the ugliest of ways. It seems the Leicester players knew that, regardless of what they do on Tuesday, they were going to be painted in a very dark shade regardless.
Maybe that is why they looked fearless once again as they outran and outclassed a hapless Liverpool defence to win 3-1. It was a hark back to the way Leicester played last season and against Manchester City a couple of months back. In the first few minutes, Vardy was getting in behind the Liverpool defence time and again with Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton primed to feed him whenever they had the chance. Those chances were in turn being provided by the brilliant Danny Drinkwater and Wilfried Ndidi as they guarded their defensive set up.
Liverpool had no answer to this as Vardy’s spirited runs finally gave Leicester the lead. It was a mistake from Giorginio Wijnaldum that gave the ball to Albrighton at the center of the park. He then released Vardy upfield first time who put it calmly past Simon Mignolet. The away side did threaten the Leicester goal immediately after that and Coutinho would have scored the equaliser had it not been for some goal keeping master class from Schmeichel. Leicester’s physical superiority was something that Liverpool found difficult to deal with in set piece routines. It was at one such juncture, 11 minutes after the first goal, that Liverpool didn’t clear the ball well and it fell straight to Drinkwater outside the box. The former Manchester United man took it first time on the volley and slammed into the bottom left hand corner. Leicester were flying at this point.
Liverpool had more of the possession throughout the match but there was always the threat of Albrighton, Mahrez and Vardy beating them on the counter that restricted the number of players they could put on the attack. This continued in the second half, even when Leicester were more defensive and had everyone behind the ball. As it turned out, this caution was not misplaced. On the hour mark, Christian Fuchs, after a lovely one-two with Mahrez, put a cross into the box from the left. Vardy made the perfect connection with the head and put in the back of the net. Liverpool did manage to nick one back but Leicester were too sharp and solid defensively to leak anymore goals. This victory now means that the Foxes are two points clear off the relegation zone. Liverpool, on the other hand, have lost valuable three points with Manchester United breathing down their necks.
Tottenham Hotspur won their eighth successive match at home when they beat Stoke City 4-1. Harry Kane put in a man of the match performance and scored a hat-trick that led to Mauricio Pochettino declaring him as one of the best strikers in the world. Chelsea, on the other hand, went about their business as usual as they beat Swansea City 3-1. Crystal Palace earned three crucial points in a 1-0 win over relegation rivals Middlesbrough. Burnley sit comfortably at 11th after a 1-1 draw with the second to bottom placed Hull City. Sunderland seem more and more in need of another great escape now as they lost 2-0 to Everton and are bottom placed in the league table.