Gerrard defies critics to fire Liverpool past spirited Leicester

Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring Liverpool's second goal with a trademark finish

Wes Morgan saw red as ten men Leicester City were made to pay the price in their 3-1 defeat to Liverpool. This is only the second time this season that Liverpool have managed two consecutive Premier League wins and have not yet managed three in a row, something they must improve on to reach their target of a top four finish.

Leicester played to a level far higher than that of a team siting bottom of the premier league, with a fast start in the opening ten minutes to put a struggling Liverpool under pressure. Perhaps something manager Nigel Pearson will have wanted from his players would be to test the miserably out of form Liverpool goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet. Indeed after 20 minutes it was plain to see how fragile he was when he misplaced a pass from the far edge of his box straight to Esteban Cambiasso, whom luckily for the stranded keeper, shot just wide of the empty net. Merely minutes later Leicester were back and Mignolet wasn’t so lucky this time. When played in, Jamie Vardy’s shot was cleared off the line by Martin Skrtel as Mignolet failed to deal with the danger. Skrtel’s headed clearance fell kindly to Ulloa in the six yard box, who struck the near post with a powerful shot that deflected off the back of the helpless Mignolet and into the back of the net for an own goal.

Liverpool struggled to create too many clear cut opportunities through the first half but found themselves level with Leicester only four minutes later. Rickie Lambert is key to Liverpool’s occasional long ball to hold up play, and it was his headed knockdown that found Lallana in the box to fire a left footed half-volley into the bottom corner. Whilst Lambert has played his part well through his recent run in the team, it’s unclear what his role will be when Daniel Sturridge eventually returns from injury. Sturridge’s pacey running in behind the defence was missing from Liverpool’s attacking play; however with Lambert in the team they look far less vulnerable from set pieces with his aerial presence there to help a struggling defence.

Leicester again started fastest and put Liverpool under early pressure from the start of the second half with a flurry of corners. However, it was Liverpool who struck first from the heavily influential Steven Gerrard, scoring his fourth goal of the season to make him Liverpool’s top scorer this season. Gerrard began the move from midfield by playing Raheem sterling in down the left flank before moving into a more trademark attacking midfield position around the edge of the box. Sterling’s pull back to Lambert at the back post was half cleared by Wes Morgan where it landed ahead of Gerrard to place into the bottom corner. Gerrard has been under a lot of scrutiny after his infamous “slip” against Chelsea last season and he responded to a first goal back in the team, after being left out against Stoke, with a passionate celebration showing why he’s been such a massive player for Liverpool over the past 16 years.

The key turning point happened at the hour mark when Wes Morgan was dismissed from the game for taking down the last man to deny a clear goal scoring opportunity. Mid-way through the Leicester half Morgan was caught by a through ball, with Lambert running past him to latch onto the ball to leave him time and space to run clear at Schmeichel and shoot at goal. Morgan was quick to react and hauled him to the ground to leave the referee no choice but to send him off. The referee was later called on again as Gerrard played a central role late on in the game when he was released on a surging run one on one versus the keeper. The two appeared to collide in the box in a decision that could have easily been given, something that Gerrard knew as his shocked reaction showed his disbelief that it hadn’t gone his way.

It wasn’t plain sailing for Liverpool, in fact for the second half Leicester appeared the more likely to score and whilst they came close, couldn’t find the killer instinct from their strikers whom haven’t scored since the 21st of September. As Leicester threw men forwards for the last 15 minutes they left themselves open to the counter attack, something that Liverpool were able to seize upon with less than 10 minutes remaining. Gerrard’s cross into the box was deflected to and parried by Schemeichel before quickly being pounced on by Sterling who was shooed to the touch line by the keeper. However the trickery of the Liverpool man led to the goal as his clever back-heel found Jordan Henderson free to slot home from inside the area for his third goal of the season. Whilst he wasn’t on the score sheet Sterling played admirably, often being fouled but awarded nothing by the referee, Sterling persistently showed strength to hold up the ball when Liverpool needed to relieve pressure from the constant Leicester attacks.

Leicester fought well through the game showing boldness to play so attackingly in a bid to break their strikers’ goal drought and take something from the game. However, it wasn’t to be as Liverpool took their chances and got men behind the ball to scrappily defend anything that came their way. Should they carry on playing with such energy and the desire to get forwards then Leicester may be able to pick up the points they need to lift themselves from the bottom of the table, but they will need to improve defensively to have any chance of this happening. As for Liverpool, whilst they got three points, another day they may not have been so lucky and have work to do both offensively and defensively. It remains to be seen what will become of Steven Gerrard following him being benched on some occasions this season, and with his contract up in the summer, whether or not he will remain a Liverpool player next season, based on his performance in this game it seems he is a valuable asset that Liverpool cannot afford to lose.

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