Carabao Cup: Liverpool crash out to Leicester
Leicester 2-0 Liverpool
Philippe Coutinho caught the eye but Leicester claimed the win as Liverpool’s Brazilian star dominated discussion when he was on the field and again when he left it.
Coutinho made his first start since failing to secure a summer move to Barcelona and played a starring role with his bewitching footwork in a dominant first-half display from Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Yet Klopp’s decision to replace him at half-time had an even bigger impact on the game as Liverpool lost their impetus and second-half goals from Shinji Okazaki and Islam Slimani took Craig Shakespeare’s Leicester into round four of the Carabao Cup.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also made his first Liverpool start in a side containing eight changes but his impact was minimal and a Leicester side with seven changes won thanks to an opening goal from substitute Okazaki and a superb striker from Slimani.
Liverpool made a more cohesive start and gave Oxlade-Chamberlain the chance to stamp an early mark on the game.
The seized on loose passing from Leicester with Marko Grujic, Coutinho and Andrew Robertson combining to turn it into a chance.
Robertson’s cross found Oxlade-Chamberlain at the far post but he was thwarted by a superb, goal-saving challenge by Ben Chilwell.
Leicester tried to spring an attack of their own but Islam Slimani allowed Daniel Amartey’s pass to run away from him.
And they were defending again moments later when Coutinho served up a reminder of the talent Barcelona were so keen to acquire.
He weaved past three challenges and tried his luck from the edge of the penalty area but his effort was beaten away by diving goalkeeper Ben Hamer.
Coutinho tested Hamer again on 17 minutes with a shot from inside the D but this time the Leicester man did not have to move to claim a comfortable catch.
Leicester had struggled to stem the Liverpool tide but Demarai Gray sparked a much-needed moment of respite when he tricked his way past Jon Flanagan into yards of space in the Liverpool half.
Yet with team-mates awaiting a pass, the winger tried an ambitious shot from the edge of the area that Danny Ward in the Liverpool goal saved comfortably.
Dominic Solanke then had a tough chance to mark his first Liverpool start with a goal but he scooped a shot over the crossbar from a fine Robertson cross.
Robertson was a constant threat and another powerful burst down the Liverpool left ended with him drilling a shot just beyond the far post.
Coutinho sent a free-kick over the crossbar and then produced a fine pass to release Solanke for a chance he lifted over, but Liverpool could not find a goal before half-time despite their general dominance.
Early in the second half Gray’s winding run towards goal was halted unceremoniously by a lunge from Grujic on the edge of the penalty area.
But Gray made a mess of the resulting free-kick, curling it wastefully over the crossbar.
He was clearly encouraged by his earlier run, however, and a surge towards the heart of Leicester defence moments later almost brought its rewards as he dragged a shot just wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Okazaki replaced the injured Leonardo Ulloa after 52 minutes and made his mark on the game just 14 minutes later.
Leicester kept alive a corner and, when Vicente Iborra cushioned a pass back to Okazaki, the Japan striker fired a shot into the bottom corner from just inside the 18-yard box to open the scoring.
Rising Welsh star Ben Woodburn, who had replaced Coutinho at the break, almost drew Liverpool level on 72 minutes but his curling, right-footed strike from the corner of the penalty area drifted just wide.
Liverpool still had hope of a comeback until the 78th minute when Slimani’s moment of magic killed them off.
Leicester’s £30m record signing cut off the right flank to the edge of the area and blasted a superb, right-footed effort past Ward into the top corner.
LEICESTER (4-4-2): Hamer; Amartey, Morgan, Dragovic, Chilwell; Gray, Iborra, Ndidi (Choudhury 83), Albrighton; Ulloa (Okazaki 52), Slimani.
Subs not used: Iheanacho, Musa, Jakupovic, Mahrez, Benalouane.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Ward; Flanagan, Gomez, Klavan, Robertson; Wijnaldum (Ings 73), Henderson, Grujic; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke, Coutinho (Woodburn HT).
Subs not used: Karius, Milner, Moreno, Markovic, Alexander-Arnold.
Independent News Service