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Salah penalty miss sums up Liverpool’s doomed December

 

Liverpool forward Salah

Mohamed Salah has won Liverpool enough points down the years, so he can be forgiven the occasional off-night.

And he and his Reds team-mates certainly had one in Leicester on Tuesday night.

We have all been wondering how Jurgen Klopp’s side would handle January, but it is December which looks like it could cost them. After dropping five points in their last two Premier League games, their title chances are hanging by a thread.

The gap to Manchester City is now six points, and could be extended to nine if the reigning champions win at Brentford on Wednesday. Liverpool would have a game in hand, but it still looks – and feels – like it would be a tall order to reel in Pep Guardiola’s side from here – especially when the Reds’ next fixture is a trip to Chelsea.

They were poor here, beaten 1-0 at the King Power Stadium courtesy of a second-half strike from Ademola Lookman, the Leicester substitute and, of all things, a former Everton player.

Brendan Rodgers’ side, smashed for six at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day, looked revived here. The win lifts them into the top half of the table.

Liverpool, will rue the defending which allowed Lookman to run through and score just three minutes after his introduction. Certainly Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold will not fancy watching that particular clip back.

Nor will Salah want to revisit the moment, 16 minutes in, when he had the ball on the penalty spot and the game at his feet. The Egypt international had won the spot kick himself, tripped by a panicking Wilfred Ndidi, and would have felt confident having netted his last 15 Premier League penalties.

But for once, his radar was off. Kasper Schmeichel guessed right, dived right and made the save. Salah still might have made amends, but headed the rebound against the bar and then prodded a third attempt wide. The grimace said it all.

As did Sadio Mane’s when, a few minutes before Lookman’s winner, the Senegal star was played clean through by Diogo Jota. He was inside Timothy Castagne and saw the whites of Schmeichel’s eyes. The goalkeeper went left, Mane went right, but the ball flew over the bar.

On the sideline, Klopp celebrated prematurely before correcting himself. Mane’s, like Salah’s, would prove to be a costly miss. Soon after, Lookman did his thing and there was to be no way back.

Liverpool spent most of the game probing, but lacked the killer touch throughout. Leicester, tired but highly motivated after last weeks Carabao Cup shocker, ran themselves into the ground, their fans celebrating blocks and clearances like goals – while they were not taunting the away supporters with some more than unsavoury chants about poverty, that is.

Liverpool huffed and puffed, taking 21 shots and forcing a dozen corners. The sight of Alisson Becker in the penalty area for the last of those said it all; desperate times, desperate measures.

There was to be no heroic contribution from the Brazilian this time, though. Liverpool ended 2021 as they started it, beaten 1-0 away from home. This was their first time they have failed to score in a game since April, and their first blank on the road since that January loss at Southampton, which was every bit as frustrating as this one.

It looks like it could be a long way back from here. City’s form is ominous and Liverpool’s is fading. They remain in the race, but only just.

December has not been kind to the men from Anfield. They now have to hope January is a lot better to them than it was last time.

Source: goal.com

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