Liverpool kept their slim title hopes alive as Diogo Jota’s double secured a commanding 2-0 win over Leicester at Anfield.
Jota turned home from close range after Kasper Schmeichel had parried Virgil van Dijk’s header (34), then fired in from a Joel Matip pass (87) to seal the win and put Liverpool back within nine points of leaders Manchester City with a game in hand.
The Reds were without Sadio Mane following his late return from the Africa Cup of Nations while Jurgen Klopp resisted the urge to start Mohamed Salah, who was named on the bench following Egypt’s defeat to Senegal in Sunday’s final.
But Jota stepped up again in their absence, taking his goal tally for the season to 17, while there was also an impressive Premier League debut from Luis Diaz, their January signing from Porto.
Salah did emerge from the bench in the second half, receiving a rapturous ovation from the Anfield crowd before striking the woodwork with a curling effort and twice seeing Schmeichel deny him on other occasions.
It was Jota’s night, though, his second goal coming after Liverpool had missed a succession of chances and confirming a fifth consecutive home win in the Premier League which leaves Leicester, still reeling from their 4-1 loss to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Sunday, in 12th place.
Brendan Rodgers’ side defended resolutely for the opening half-hour and had bright moments in attack too, most notably when James Maddison’s angled effort was superbly saved by Alisson after the Leicester man had exchanged passes with Ademola Lookman.
But once again a set-piece proved their undoing as Van Dijk powered Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner goalwards, with Jota slamming home the rebound after Schmeichel’s initial save.
Liverpool controlled the game from then on, with Diaz’s speed and directness causing Leicester problems on their right flank, and the pressure on the visitors increased after Salah’s introduction for Roberto Firmino on the hour mark.
The Egyptian suffered Africa Cup of Nations heartbreak with Sunday’s penalty shootout defeat to Senegal but played like a man with a point to prove on his return to Anfield.
He was bravely denied by Schmeichel after turning away from two Leicester players in the box, and the Dane then pulled off an even better save when he raced through on goal after latching onto an errant pass by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.
Diaz spurned chances too, slashing wide from a Jota pass, then shooting too close to Schmeichel after Salah played him in on goal with a delightful through-ball on the edge of the Leicester box.
But Jota’s clinical second, when he shot on the turn from Matip’s pass, his effort too powerful for Schmeichel, finally broke the visitors’ resistance and gave Liverpool the two-goal cushion their dominant performance deserved.
MAN OF THE MATCH : DIOGO JOTA
The Portugal international showed his predatory instincts once again as he notched both goals in what was a must-win game for Klopp’s men. Jota was first to react to break the deadlock in the first half and made sure of the three points with a neat second-half finish. The former Wolves man has quickly become an important figure at Anfield and will be a key player for Liverpool in the final stages of the season.
TALKING POINT: SALAH RETURNS, DIAZ IMPRESSES
Liverpool boss Klopp will be delighted with the return of his top scorer Salah after his stint with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations and he immediately hit the ground running with a superb performance from the bench. New signing Diaz made his debut and was given a rapturous ovation when he was replaced in the final minute. The Colombian was in the thick of the action from the first minute and could have opened his account but for the heroics of Leicester keeper Schmeichel.
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (8), Matip (8), Van Dijk (8), Robertson (8), Fabinho (7), Thiago (7), Jones (6), Diaz (8), Firmino (6), Jota (9).
Subs: Salah (7), Elliott (7), Minamino (6).
Leicester: Schmeichel (8), Justin (6), Amartey (7), Ndidi (6), Thomas (6), Dewsbury-Hall (6), Soumare (6), Lookman (6), Maddison (7), Albrighton (6), Daka (5).
Subs: Tielemans (6), Iheanacho (6), Barnes (6).
Man of the match: Diogo Jota
Anfield a fortress for Liverpool
- Liverpool are the only remaining Premier League side yet to lose on home soil this season and have now won 11 of their last 15 Premier League games at Anfield, scoring at least twice in 12 of those games (34 in total).
- Leicester have conceded more goals from corners (10) than any other Premier League side this season, while their tally of 18 conceded from all set-piece situations equals their number from the entire 2020-21 league campaign.
- Liverpool striker Diogo Jota has netted 17 goals in all competitions this season, making 2021-22 his outright best goalscoring season as a Premier League player. Only teammate Mohamed Salah (23) has scored more goals amongst all Premier League players in all competitions this season.
- Trent Alexander-Arnold (23y 126d) tonight appeared in his 150th Premier League game for Liverpool, the youngest to do so for the club since Michael Owen back in 2002 (22y 134d). The defender has 43 assists to his name in the competition, a tally bettered by just six players after their 150th appearance.