Liverpool 4 Firmino 13', Mané 31’, Lallana 56’, Firmino 89’
Leicester City 1 Vardy 38’
There’s a lot that could’ve gone wrong today.
Some previously-undiscovered problem with the newly-rebuilt Main Stand could’ve been uncovered and made for, at the very least, a sticky PR problem. The pressure of the first home game under said stand could’ve been just enough to get in the heads of the players. The international break could’ve left the Reds too rusty. The Matip-Lucas tandem in the back could’ve been a disaster. Simon Mignolet could’ve been forced off after one of the several times play had to be stopped to deal with him losing blood.
In short: this first home game of the season, against the defending champions, at the new-look Anfield, had all the makings of a potential embarrassment. In a way, it makes such a comprehensive win seem that much sweeter.
Leicester seemed the more comfortable side in the opening minutes, forcing Liverpool to turtle up in their own half and give up possession needlessly. But Leicester failed to make the most of their early strength, something they would come to rue later on.
Roberto Firmino broke the seal at NuAnfield, as Ol’ Bobby Firm faked out Robert Huth and beat Kasper Schmeichel to slot it into the lower left-hand corner. The largest crowd at Anfield since 1977, already in good voice, released their collective tension and the entire tenor changed.
Daniel Sturridge almost tallied not too long after, but alas, his contribution would be confined largely to threatening runs and an assist. That came just after the half-hour mark when Sadio Mané and Sturridge ganged up on a single defender for a quick counter attack; Mané cut behind Sturridge, received a cross and tried to tap in from close range, had his shot parried by Schmeichel but put enough on it for the ball to loop up and over the line anyway. For the most part, the Reds were in control and didn’t really relinquish it for much of the game.
For the most part.
I mean, look. We all saw Lucas’ backpass. The one where he let himself come under pressure while standing parallel to Mignolet, failed to give himself an out, sent a panicked backpass to Mignolet, overhit it, and ended up making a lovely assist for Jamie Vardy’s crash into an empty net. It was bad. Really, really bad. You can make any number of rationalizations—he was under pressure, he’s not actually a defender, etc.—but it’s still bad and we all know it. It was a mistake, we all recognize it.
But the lovely thing about this game was that Liverpool’s backline could make such a comical error to concede a goal, and it did not matter. It did not matter because the Reds went into the dressing room at halftime, splashed some water on their faces, told themselves they’re good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like them. And then they came out and bossed the second half. Apart from one or two isolated episodes— one from Vardy, another from Danny Drinkwater— Liverpool were pretty obviously the better side and could’ve closed it out even without additional goals.
As it is, Lallana restored their buffer just shy of an hour in with a thunderous strike into the top corner. And Firmino settled everyone’s tab by slotting it into an empty net with just moments left in regulation.
Lucas’ shenanigans notwithstanding, the only legitimate source of worry was Mignolet’s persistent blood loss— first from a shot to the nose and later from a cut eye. Both injuries seemed small enough at first blush, but given Liverpool’s colorful history with injuries and the camera’s frequent, furtive glances back at Loris Karius, some of us invariably feared the worst.
But it was fine. We had our first home match of the season, the first under the new Main Stand, against the defending champions, and everything came out peachy keen.