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Ruthless Reds crush spluttering Leicester

Liverpool (AFP) – Liverpool turned on the style to mark the opening of the new-look Anfield with an imperious 4-1 rout of Premier League champions Leicester on Saturday.

Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane put Jurgen Klopp’s side two goals ahead as they played at home for the first time this season and for the first time since expanding Anfield’s capacity by 8,500 to 54,000.

Jamie Vardy reduced the deficit to a single goal after Lucas’s mistake.

But Adam Lallana’s fine strike restored Liverpool’s two-goal advantage and Firmino’s late effort wrapped up a worrying defeat for Leicester, who have won only one of their first four matches.

The new £115 million main stand at Anfield was treated to an enthralling contest but one which Liverpool only had themselves to blame for not killing off inside the opening half hour.

After 13 minutes the hosts scored the first goal in front of their new stand, with stand-in left-back James Milner making a superb, in-field pass to Firmino.

The Liverpool forward had only to advance a few yards but did so effectively, scything between Wes Morgan and Robert Huth before drilling a low shot past the diving Kasper Schmeichel from 14 yards.

On 31 minutes Liverpool doubled the advantage with the increasingly impressive Jordan Henderson carving out the goal with a defence-splitting pass that sent Daniel Sturridge sprinting away from a static back four.

The England forward then opted for a selfless and skillful back-heel that left Mane unmarked in the centre and able to score via the hand of Schmeichel.

– Bloody nose –

Liverpool were rampant and the home crowd almost delirious.

But the joy would be short-lived as Liverpool’s unfamiliar centre-half Lucas gifted them a foothold in the game.

Simon Mignolet’s short pass played Lucas under pressure and, after the Brazilian — normally a deep-lying midfielder — miscontrolled the ball, he panicked and rolled it across an open goal for Vardy to convert a simple finish.

Mignolet looked particularly rattled by the experience and, a few moments later, failed to deal with a long throw-in from Luis Hernandez which allowed Huth to head against the Liverpool bar.

Klopp’s decision to select a back four featuring two specialist midfield players, Lucas and Milner, had looked a gamble before kick-off and now looked like it might prove disastrous.

That said, only Schmeichel had prevented Liverpool scoring another goal on 26 minutes after Mane played a brilliant one-two with Lallana and crossed to the near post, where a Sturridge shot was superbly kept out by the Leicester goalkeeper.

Liverpool’s nerves were not helped early in the second half when Mignolet suffered a badly blooded nose after a collision with Huth at a corner.

The home side might have lifted the growing anxiety on 56 minutes when Firmino played in Sturridge, but the striker attempted to lift the ball over the advancing Schmeichel and succeeded only in hitting the ball against the keeper.

The miss did not prove costly, however, and seconds later Lallana restored Liverpool’s two-goal cushion. 

Nathanial Clyne, Sturridge and Georginio Wijnaldum combined well before the Dutchman laid the ball off for Lallana to drill an unstoppable shot into the top corner. 

Vardy was unusually wasteful just after the hour, when played clean in on goal by Riyad Mahrez, only to be denied by the outstretched leg of Mignolet.

Leicester continued to press, without the clinical touch they enjoyed in their league-winning campaign.

Huth nodded just wide, Danny Drinkwater saw a spectacular volley deflected wide and Vardy headed straight at Mignolet. 

Henderson wasted a perfect opportunity to put the game beyond all reasonable doubt on 78 minutes, but Firmino ensured his team-mate wouldn’t rue that miss when he slotted home in the 89th minute.

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