Leicester City fans, and perhaps some in the club, must have been licking their chops coming into this game. With their form to this point in the season best described as “rather hungry”, and combined with the ever-expanding, dreadfully extensive injury list in the Reds’ ranks, the Foxes were ready to walk into the hen-house – and feast.
Instead them beaks went a-bitin’ and them feathers went a-flyin’, and those hounds are going home with their tails between their legs.
Putting the new and mind-warping 64-game (sixty four!) unbeaten-at-home game record streak aside, there is so much to say about the merseysiders’ performance today that I am afraid to do any of the players a disservice by my self-imposed 1-hour time limit to get these columns out post-game. Whom should we honor first? Let’s start by the surprise emergence (and associated immense relief) of the Terminator off the injury list; Fabinho did absolutely nothing wrong the entire game, and between him, Alisson, Matip, and the hard-working Robertson, the defense simply looked solid (I’ll get to to Milner in a moment, I promise).
Then you have Curtis Jones. Remind me how old this kid is again? His performance, in such a complicated position within Klopp’s tight margins system, was downright remarkable considering his age and experience. There is a bit of extra confidence, even cockiness to his play that is welcome from a player this young, and he generally backs it up with tenacity and creativity. There were moments when Jones pretty much pressed the entire Leicester midfield by himself. Speaking of the midfield, Gini was consistently brilliant playing where Fab usually does, Keita delivered repeatedly until another (what appears to be a) hamstring injury took him out, and as a result, their Liecester counterparts quickly seemed to develop an air of “you gotta be kiddin’ me” to them (don’t worry, we’re getting to Milner).
And what about Jota? Did anyone imagine what a player he would be for Liverpool when we he was brought in? I admit I had never even considered him as a possible transfer before it was announced. Sure, he was a good player, but surely not Liverpool good. Well then, words, meet stomach. Jota is simply irresistible, and in scoring again today he became the first Liverpool player ever to score a goal in each of the first four home games in a season. The thing with him, though, is that it’s not just that he scores; he works his butt off, all the time, and the goals tend to fall in his lap because he’s constantly making sure to be in the right place at the right time. There is something absolutely magical when a player fits naturally into a system that seems designed for them, and what we are witnessing is the creation of a terrifying monster. A Frankendiogo (yes, yes, Milner. I know).
Not that Mane did badly, mind you; he played his usual game, which is in its own way terrifying to his opponents. And did you see that smile from Bobby when he finally scored? It seemed like he shed a few years. He needed a decisive goal like that one the way he needs oxygen, especially after his previous effort hit the posts twice and was denied a goal by the goal-line system, the margin being about a quarter of an inch. One has to hope that this will finally pave a path back for his trademark, joyful style of play, and many more goals.
And now, Milner. Forget the fact that he is still able to play at the highest levels at his advanced age, while outrunning everyone else. The thing is that he is a legitimate member of the first-11, and if anyone had any doubts, today should have put those to rest. During the first half hour, when the Foxes might still have entertained the idea that they could come away from Anfield with something, it was Millie who denied them, time after time. And he didn’t just play a crucial defensive role; his forward-going plays were fantastic, his passes were prescient, and if it weren’t for a bit of rotten luck, he would have gotten himself a couple more assists to boot. Then Keita goes out, Neco comes in, Milner moves to a different position, and wouldn’t you know it, he doesn’t miss a beat. I daresay that Liverpool would have nowhere near dominated Leicester today without his magnificent performance, and while I entertained awarding man-of-the-match to Schmeichel, who prevented his side from suffering a much more harrowing defeat, that was just a fancy.
Give it to the old guy. He’s more than earned it.
Some pundit said recently that, should Liverpool still manage to continue winning even with all the injuries, it would make for a truly scary prospect for every other team. At least judging by this game, in this moment, many a security blanket is being clutched desperately for dear life.