A first-half double from Curtis Jones led Liverpool to an easy 3-0 win at Leicester on Monday night to maintain their Champions League qualification hopes and further deepen their hosts’ relegation fears.
Jones arrived on the end of a Mohamed Salah cross to convert after the half hour mark and quickly thumped in his second in style, again from a Salah pass.
The relegation threatened Foxes kept the deficit down until Trent Alexander-Arnold curled in an inch-perfect free kick in the 71st minute to take the Reds within a point of Newcastle and Manchester United in third and fourth, albeit having played a game more.
Leicester had a slight whiff of a chance early on when James Maddison’s whipped delivery just evaded Jamie Vardy, but the Reds soon began to ramp up the pressure.
Once the visitors stormed into a quick two-goal lead, the grim reality of Leicester’s situation sent the King Power Stadium into a deathly hush, the possibility of points on Monday night quashed by two strikes from Jones.
The first caught Foxes centre back Wout Faes in a totally flustered state, running towards his own box underneath a high ball and allowing Luis Diaz to nick possession with a header before it found Salah out wide. The Egyptian’s clipped cross to the back post picked out the surging Jones, who controlled his finish on the bounce to put Jurgen Klopp’s side ahead.
Liverpool’s motivation to stay in the top four hunt trumped Leicester’s uninspired efforts to avoid the drop and the second goal came in quick succession, the finish again provided by Jones.
The 22-year-old, who has enjoyed a regular role in the starting XI of late, took a touch from Salah’s pass with his back to goal, swivelled and struck a fierce effort past the limp-looking Daniel Iversen.
Leicester’s last chance of points at home comes on the final day of the season against West Ham, with a trip to Newcastle next hardly appealing with the Foxes 2-0 down to Liverpool at half time.
They didn’t look capable of gaining any points in the second half and their display makes it difficult to predict where the results they need to stay up will come from. Their best moment of the game came through Harvey Barnes, who drifted infield and collected a one-two with Vardy before his deflected effort from distance was palmed away by Alisson.
It mattered little, however, as a thumped Alexander-Arnold free kick settled the game. Salah laid it off at the set piece to claim his third assist, but the right back’s finish was the real highlight, leaving Iversen helpless again in the Leicester net.
Leicester are down in 19th and two points from safety with two games left, while Liverpool are in fifth as they continue to chase down Newcastle and Man Utd.
Leicester player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Daniel Iversen – 4/10 – Made a couple of stops from Gakpo and Salah but was sluggish to react to Jones’ second.
RB: Ricardo Pereira – 3/10 – Booked for a cynical foul that stopped a breakaway. Continually out of position like the rest of Leicester’s defenders.
CB: Wout Faes – 3/10 – Caught floundering under a high punt before Jones opened the scoring. Another poor game against Liverpool having scored two own goals in the 2-1 reverse defeat.
CB: Jonny Evans – 4/10 – A first Premier League start since October and obviously looked stiff in certain foot races with Liverpool’s attackers.
LB: Timothy Castagne – 3/10 – A bit sleepy in stopping crosses coming into the box. Out of position and played Liverpool onside for one of the goals.
CM: Youri Tielemans – 3/10 – Had a slightly improved second half but his passing was so sloppy – the Belgian only completed 62% of his balls.
CM: Wilfred Ndidi – 5/10 – Hardly shy in putting a tackle in here and there, making eight in total, but couldn’t hold back the tide on his own.
CM: Boubakary Soumare – 4/10 – Struggled against the imposing Fabinho with Leicester’s midfield often caught out of position when Liverpool broke.
RW: James Maddison – 3/10 – Dribbled out of trouble nicely on occasion but didn’t get many shooting opportunities or chances to put Vardy through.
ST: Jamie Vardy – 4/10 – Never got the chance to scamper onto balls over the top, his threat negated throughout much of the contest.
LW: Harvey Barnes – 4/10 – Had one of Leicester’s better moments when he cut inside and tested Alisson but was largely ineffectual and ccame off around the hour.
Patson Daka (61′ for Ndidi) – 5/10
Tete (61′ for Barnes) – 5/10
Luke Thomas (68′ for Pereira) – 5/10
Harry Souttar (89′ for Evans) – N/A
Dean Smith – 3/10 – Leicester are running out of games to stay up and another insipid display here didn’t hint at a miraculous escape. Smith needs to inspire his squad and fast, otherwise the Championship will quickly become a reality.
Liverpool player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Alisson – 8/10 – Swept up at the back effectively, stopping Leicester’s attackers from getting close to goal. A couple of imposing stops and dealt with set pieces effectively.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8/10 – Sometimes a little casual with Liverpool in a healthy lead but belted in a brilliant third in the second half.
CB: Ibrahima Konate – 7/10 – Had the pace to keep up whenever Leicester had the sniff of a counter. Recovered the ball well but did get booked having committed three fouls.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 7/10 – Aerially dominant in one of his easier Liverpool games.
LB: Andy Robertson – 7/10 – Buzzed up and down the left, rarely being troubled by Maddison out wide and offering a good attacking outlet.
CM: Jordan Henderson – 7/10 – Rarely misplaced a pass and evaded Leicester’s midfield pressing surprisingly easily.
CM: Fabinho – 7/10 – Munched up all the loose ball against a weak Leicester midfield.
CM: Curtis Jones – 9/10 – Got into the box and was rewarded with two goals, the first well taken and the second a sweetly struck half volley just about given after VAR consultation. His brace was just reward for weeks of solid performances.
RW: Mohamed Salah – 9/10 – Got a hat trick of assists for his balls into Jones and a flick for Alexander-Arnold’s free kick. A goal would have capped a perfect display but it wouldn’t quite come.
ST: Cody Gakpo – 8/10 – Some lovely touches and dribbles created space for his teammates and allowed him to drive past defenders.
LW: Luis Diaz – 6/10 – Committed and industrious, though didn’t always make the right decision in attack.
Diogo Jota (74′ for Diaz) – 6/10
James Milner (74′ for Henderson) – 6/10
Fabio Carvalho (84′ for Jones) – N/A
Harvey Elliott (88′ for Salah) – N/A
Jurgen Klopp – 8/10 – Liverpool’s attackers had a little too much guile and thought for Leicester’s defence, making for an easy night’s work for Klopp and Liverpool.
Player of the match – Curtis Jones (Liverpool)
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