LONDON: Records tumbled at Anfield as Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Leicester set a new 64-match unbeaten home league milestone with Diogo Jota also writing his name into the club’s history books.
The Portugal international became the first Reds player to score in his first four home top-flight league appearances with a neat glancing first-half header to add to Jonny Evans’ opening own goal.
The victory took Liverpool level on points with leaders Tottenham but second on goal difference.
Roberto Firmino added further gloss to the scoreline, after a number of missed chances, with an 87th-minute header as Jurgen Klopp’s side – undefeated in the league at Anfield since April 2017 – eclipsed the great team of the late 1970s and early 1980s, whose own run was coincidentally ended by a Leicester team in 1981.
Fabinho’s return after a three-match absence not only eased Liverpool’s injury worries but soothed any anxiety at the back as he slotted into central defence with a calm, assured performance usually associated with the long-term injured Virgil Van Dijk.
With Liverpool’s well-publicised problems Leicester, with a 100 per cent record away from home, and their former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers would have fancied their chances of a first win at Anfield in over 20 years.
However, their 3-4-3 formation was, in effect, a 5-3-2 in a first half which the hosts were well worth their 2-0 lead.
Jamie Vardy, the scourge of ‘big six’ teams since 2014, barely had a touch of note never mind the chance to test Fabinho’s newly-healed hamstring or Joel Matip’s lack of pace.
Instead it was another livewire forward in Jota who took centre-stage, occupying the wide-right position usually the preserve of Mohamed Salah, sitting this match out after testing positive for Covid-19 while on international duty.
The summer signing was a bundle of energy, roaming in off the flank to cause Leicester all kinds of problems, and he was duly rewarded with his goal just before the break.
Having survived an early scare when the ball his Matip’s arm in the penalty area Liverpool settled into a rhythm which their opponents found difficult to break.
With Naby Keita, making his first start since last month’s 7-2 shock defeat at Aston Villa, buzzing around midfield Curtis Jones and Jota both forced Kasper Schmeichel into comfortable saves.
Instead, it was Evans, with his sixth Premier League own goal – only Richard Dunne, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel have more – who beat the Leicester goalkeeper.
Having shrugged off the attentions of Sadio Mane the Foxes captain was distracted by Christian Fuchs jumping in front of him and headed into his own goal.
Had Harvey Barnes not steered a good opportunity wide soon after the half may have panned out differently but Liverpool began to build pressure and three minutes before half-time doubled their lead through Jota after a 30-pass move which highlighted their dominance.
The evergreen James Milner, 35 in January, deputised for the absent Trent Alexander-Arnold and did not put a foot wrong in keeping Barnes, 12 years his junior, quiet while also offering an outlet down the right until he was moved into midfield after Keita was added to the casualty list with a hamstring injury.
Milner’s versatility is an obvious asset in these ‘troubled’ times and his first act in his more advanced position was to release Mane, whose shot was parried by Schmeichel who needed Fuchs to bail him out by heading over from under the crossbar with Jota lurking.
Jota tested the keeper again and Evans headed against his own post as Liverpool should really have been out of sight before the hour mark.
Leicester failed to capitalise on the introduction of 19-year-old Neco Williams at right-back and even when Alisson Becker did make a good double save from Vardy and Barnes any goal would have been ruled out for offside.
Liverpool hit the post twice within seconds as Firmino’s shot rebounded, was cleared off the line by millimetres and Mane’s strike deflected off Schmeichel onto the upright – all after Jota’s brilliant through-ball had opened up Leicester.