Leicester's Wout Faes scores two own goals as Liverpool close in on top four
By Chris Bascombe, at Anfield
With gallows humour, Leicester City’s Wout Faes may briefly have considered the possibility of the perfect hat-trick at Anfield on Friday night.
He had already delivered an exceptional finish with his left foot, and a more clumsy tap-in with his right, but throughout an entertainingly flawed game the Kop could have done no more to encourage the Belgian to complete the set, willing every cross to end with a header past Leicester keeper Danny Ward.
The punchline, of course, is that Faes’ double was into his own net. Leicester fans gracefully accepted the joke by gleefully chanting about scoring three on hallowed turf and charitably overlooking the key details that two of them secured Liverpool’s win.
Thus, Liverpool maintained their revival in the most bizarre circumstances, a fourth consecutive league victory ensuring they have begun to repair the damage of their poor start to the season, the gap to fourth reduced to two points.
One had to feel sorry for Leicester’s centre-half as his farcical contributions blighted an otherwise competitive performance from his side. Brendan Rodgers would have dreamed of his first Anfield win since he was Liverpool manager in 2015 when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall put the visitors ahead after four minutes.
Then came the kind of finish which – had it been intended – would have served as a fitting tribute to Pele’s capacity for astonishing goals.
Faes could have connected with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s right wing cross another thousand times and never match the accuracy which defeated his goalkeeper.
As the defender swung with his left boot in an attempt to clear, the ball looped and twirled and descended into the one area of the six yard box which the goalkeeper could not cover.
There was momentary disbelief around Anfield as it bounced into the bottom corner, giving Liverpool an equaliser they were toiling to find. Ward dashed to console his team-mate, presumably suggesting that such mishaps are rare.
That was in the 38th minute. Seven minutes later, Faes was receiving sympathy for putting Liverpool 2-1 up.
Even the Kop must have felt for him as he tried to stop Darwin Núñez’s chipped finish crossing the line, only to get his legs tangled and contribute to providing the finishing touch.
“Shoot,” shouted the Kop every time Faes took possession later.
“The game worked out perfectly but those seven minutes you can’t plan for that, especially the first one,” said Rodgers.
“It was freakish really. He is a strong character. Tonight was unfortunate for him.”
Only once before has an opposition player scored two own goals in a game against Liverpool, Cardiff’s Danny Malloy in 1959, although Kop legend Jamie Carragher once did so against Manchester United – a fact his Sky colleagues referenced repeatedly during his media duties on Friday night.
Rodgers – who later revealed James Madisson's knee scan does not show serious damage – could conclude this was not going to be his night there and then. His side had looked reasonably comfortable before the strange circumstances turned the game, repelling a home attack which looked sharp in its passing during the earlier stages but were showing signs of anxiety as Ward was well protected.
New Liverpool signing Cody Gakpo watched on from the directors’ box, but the glaring absence of a defensive centre-midfielder cost Liverpool for Leicester’s goal.
With Fabinho out because his wife was due to give birth, Dewsbury-Hall took advantage of the space created by the Brazilian’s absence, collecting possession just inside Liverpool’s penalty area and realising the more he ran, the less inclined an opponent to make a tackle. Dewsbury-Hall was faced one-on-one with Alisson and duly finished.
Despite the early loss of Patson Daka with injury, Jamie Vardy’s introduction served to further expose Liverpool’s vulnerabilities on the counter-attack.
Jürgen Klopp has certainly refreshed Liverpool’s tactical template during the World Cup break, but it is a white knuckle ride watching them, the brief being so focused on high pressing that any misplaced pass can leave them short of defenders.
Alexander-Arnold needed a last ditch intervention to prevent Harvey Barnes doubling Leicester’s lead during one such counter-attack.
“It’s not good enough,” sugged Virgil Van Dijk, acknowledging the frantic nature of Liverpool’s games.
“At times I think we were very poor. But it is good to get the three points. Wwe won and that’s very positive, that is what it is all about but there are plenty of things to improve.”
At least it makes for a good watch, no matter who Liverpool are playing, and when they are in control it tends to be because Thiago is orchestrating. He was the game’s outstanding player. Indeed, it was the midfielder’s perfectly timed tackle on Barnes midway through the first half which first roused the crowd, although his precision passing was more eye-catching.
Liverpool could have extended their lead early in the second half when Henderson was inches wide with a volley, and Mohamed Salah failed to convert after the kind of thrilling Núñez sprint and pass which is making him a new Kop favourite.
Núñez’s expanding catalogue of missed chances also continued, despite more excellent work in Liverpool’s build-up. If he was more lethal he might be challenging Erling Haaland for the golden boot.
If matching Haaland is beyond him for now, perhaps Núñez can take a few finishing tips from Faes.
Liverpool vs Leicester – as it happened
Trent Alexander-Arnold speaks
"I agree [it was a poor performance]. It wasn't our best performance at all, but at the end of the day the most important thing is the result – but you like the performances to go with it.
"The most important thing is getting the three points and trying to get into a position in the league where we feel like we need to be, but so far this season we haven't been.
"These are the games that you probably look back on and think you needed to win it, whether you win it well or you win it ugly at the end of the season it doesn't really matter."
Brutally honest reaction from Virgil van Dijk
"At times we were very poor today, but in these times it's just good to get the three points.
"It's a cliche but it's very important to win these type of games and we did so that's the positive.
"Now we need to recover and prove we are ready for Brentford [on Monday]."
Courtesy of our friends at Opta:
Liverpool have won four consecutive Premier League matches for the first time since a 10-match winning run between January and April this year.
Leicester have lost 10 of their last 12 away Premier League games against Liverpool at Anfield (D2).
Liverpool have won six Premier League matches in 2022 after conceding the first goal, the joint most of any side this calendar year (also six for Spurs).
This was the 50th Premier League win of 2022 by a team who conceded the first goal of the game - the only two years in Premier League history in which there have been 50 such wins have come in the last two years (also 57 in 2021).
Leicester's Wout Faes became the fourth player with two own goals in a single Premier League game, after Jamie Carragher (1999, Liverpool vs Man Utd), Michael Proctor (2003, Sunderland vs Charlton) and Jonathan Walters (2013, Stoke vs Chelsea).
FULL TIME! Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
A helter-skelter game with chances missed at both ends, but Wout Faes' two own goals proved to be the difference.
Relief for Liverpool who were nowhere near their best – and plenty of questions still remain for Jurgen Klopp defensively.
90 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Four minutes of added time to be played.
87 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Tsimikas rampages forward through a couple of tired Leicester challenges and then swings his right boot at it as he approaches the box. But the ball is deflected out for another Liverpool corner.
83 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Nunez is absolutely box office!
He chases down a lost cause and then pilfers the ball off Faes, before cutting into the box and trying to find Salah.
It is just behind the Egyptian but he manages to win it and then his left-footed strike is palmed behind by Ward.
81 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Big chance for Leicester, but Barnes hits the bar from just inside the box after being teed up by Vardy!
But the No 9 was offside in the build-up so it wouldn't have counted anyway.
78 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Captain Chaos is at it again. Keita feeds Nunez on the left edge of the box in loads of space but he lashes his strike miles over.
76 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Lovely ball from Vardy in behind for Iheanacho who has acres of space to run into but tries a delicate ball with the outside of his left boot which a panicked Matip boots behind for a corner.
74 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Hi all. Barnes sends Matip for a hot dog down the Leicester left, then cuts inside and looks to skip past Alexander-Arnold...
But the Liverpool full-back steps in to intercept and wins a free-kick when the winger tugs him back.
73 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
A fire alarm means I have to leave the premises. I'm handing over to David Cosgrove to continue.
72 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Tsimikas crosses into the box. The Kop wants a penalty when the ball runs down Thomas's arm as he went up to wina header while challenging Matip.
70 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Elliott goes down when Perez shoves him in the back. That's Perez's night over. Iheanacho replaces him before Liverpool can take the free-kick on the left.
68 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Bad tackle from Soumare on Thiago earns him a booking but also some sympathy as Thiago's poor first touch made the foul look far worse than the tackle was intended to be.
66 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Lovely pass from Matip from the right centre-back position through the entre-circle to the inside-left. Nunez takes it in his stride, tacks to the right and taps it to Salah for the give and go. Salah knocks it round the corner for Nunez who scoops his shot over the bar from a position that may well have been offside.
64 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Perez chips a pass from the right wing towards the right of the D for Vardy's run but out comes Alisson in a flash to slide in and smother.
62 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
All change on Liverpool's left: Robertson, who has a knock, is replaced by Tsimikas, Keita comes on for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Elliott moves to the left wing.
60 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Leicester corner after Robertson opts for discretion when Perez ran at him. Liverpool clear the near-post cross but can't trigger the counter and back come Leicester to create a clear chance for Dewsbury-Hall who ghosts off Elliott and between Matip and Alexander-Arnold to make a complete hash of a free header from the penalty spot, sending it closer to the corner flag than goal.
59 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
First substitution: Tielemans replaces Ndidi for Leicester.
57 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Oxlade-Chamberlain is back in his old occasional Arsenal position of left wing-back for a while as he tries to bolster that flank when Barnes floats a cross from the Leicester left just beyond Perez.
54 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Barnes skips down the right, ups the urgency when he enters the box and tries to squeeze a shot under Alisson and Matip. But as the ball bobbles towards the right of goal, rather like Summerville's for Leeds at Anfield, Robertson doesn't do a Faes and manages to get it away, not without risk.
52 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Salah misses a golden opportunity when Nunez's fantastic pass from 40 yards out, diagonally sent to the right of the D. Salah races on to it, draws Ward but scuffs his right-foot finish wide of the left post.
50 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Leicester take a nap at a Liverpool throw-in parallel with the 18-yard line on the right. Dewsbury-Hall turns Rip van Winkle and allows Henderson to run off untracked to take Alexander-Arnold's throw on the half-volley and thump a shot wide of the left post.
48 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Perez has the ball in the inside left channel, runs to his right and reverses a chip back out to the left for Barnes to run to the byline and attempt to shoot from an impossible angle. At least I hope it was a shot because if it was a cross for Vardy, it was a mess.
46 min: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
No changes at half-time. Liverpool kick off, attacking the Kop. There has been a lot of criticism of Fabinho for the last year but they looked even more open than usual without him. Jamie Carragher, who scored two ogs for Manchester United in 1999, is sympathetic towards Faes but the centre-half's first touch of the second half is tentative and frankly poor.
Some revisions to the own goal descriptions required
Sky turns up the volume on the first own goal to prove that Ward made a loud and early shout of 'Keeper's' that Faes either didn't hear or ignored. And for the second one, the ball was coming away from goal off the post, not across the goalline, which makes Faes's wild hack all the more puzzling.
Chris Bascombe's half-time verdict
Improvised brilliance for the first goal by Wout Faes, and a poacher’s goal for his second. Sadly, both in the wrong net. Just needs a header for the complete hat-trick second half. Liverpool needed the generosity.
Half-time: Liverpool 2 Leicester 1
Comedy of Errors from both sides. Mistakes from Liverpool's defence have been pounced on by Leicester but they have been so profligate that they have scored only one when they could have had at least three while Liverpool have clawed their way ahead largely by virtue of Faes' misjudgements and some chaotic communication. It's highly entertaining but it's hardly top-notch in terms of quality.
Liverpool 2 Leicester 1 (Faes og) A bit of a walloper that one. Nunez sprints down the inside-left, out comes Ward and he dinks it daintily over the keeper. The ball arrows into the foot of the right post and Faes, in his attempt to whip it away and wide of the left post, slashed it into the net with his right foot.
Núñez hits the post only for Wout Faes to slot in his second OG of the evening! 😬😅😬 pic.twitter.com/WF7TckG4ZI
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 30, 2022
41 min Liverpool 1 Leicester 1
Poor from Faes but also poor from Ward not to clear the defender out of the way either by word or deed.
Liverpool corner on the right. Robertson takes and whips it into the six-yard box. Ward plucks it out of the sky unmolested.
Liverpool Leicester 1 (Faes og) Oh dear. A useful ball from Alexander-Arnold from the right but no red shirt had made a near-post run. Ward, had he called for it* or if Faes had heard his call, could have thrown his metaphorical cap on it. Faes hacks at it with his left and slices it, looping the ball over his own head and Ward's – and it dips under the cross-bar.
*It transpires Ward did call for it.
That's a shocker! 😬 #LIVLEI pic.twitter.com/BakfVmadjo
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 30, 2022
36 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Another promising Leicester counter-attack hits the buffers with Perez's cross, intended for Vardy, arbs too close to Matip rather than reaching Vardy at the back post.
34 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Leicester were 12-1 to win this. Elliott overruns the ball and slides in to try to retrieve it, getting there late and Barnes boots him on the sole of his foot. Painful for both but they are OK, though Elliott initially was concerned.
31 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Henderson gives the ball straight to Dewsbury-Hall who sprays a diagonal out to Perez overlapping down the right. He whips over a cross that Van Dijk heads behind. Liverpool keep giving Leicester the ball but they can't punish them as often as they should have. A bit more poise and precision once they're countering and they could be 3-0 up. Liverpool are all over the shop in midfield.
29 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Dewsbury-Hall is doing much better than Elliott as the advanced man in a midfield three. Henderson can't help him break the line because Leicester are so narrow, ceding space to Robertson and Alexander-Arnold but jamming up midfield.
27 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Error after error from Liverpool - dreadful cross from Robertson, a wild tackle from the left-back trying to make amends and a risky backheel from Henderson.
But within 15 seconds of Henderson's mistake Liverpool have the ball in the back of the Leicester net through Salah, by virtue of Oxlade-Chamberlain's scavenging work from a shonky Ward cleaarnce. But O-C was well offside and the flag went up immediately.
25 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Liverpool defend the corner solidly and then quickly free Nunez up the left. He burns past Faes to get to the byline at full tilt before pulling a pass back for Salah who has split to the near post. Salah takes it on his left, wraps his left instep around it and sends a shot whistling over the bar.
23 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Leicester bend the corner straight on to the head of Amartey who has crept unmarked around the back but he fires his attempt straight into a defender and out for another.
21 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Liverpool's defence leaves itself wide open again in transition, allowing Dewsbury-Hall to pile up the right and bend a lovely cross to the far post that would have given Vardy a tap-in but for a vital sliding interception from Alexander-Arnold.
20 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Fine tackle by Thiago stops a Leicester counter after a mistake from Robertson whose pass to Alexander-Arnold is picked off by Dewsbury-Hall but he doesn't have the legs to drive past the Spain midfielder.
18 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Van Dijk gallops across to his left to dispossess Perez because the full-backs were so high. But his pass is picked off, harmlessly it proves. Alisson starts again and Thomas brings down Salah on the Liverpool right, escaping a booking.
16 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Darwin and Thiago stand in front of the wall. Alexander-Arnold bends his free-kick straight into the Leicester wall as the red shirts part. Leicester's travelling support jeers.
14 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Some nifty and neat footwork from Thiago and Elliott in the inside-right channel ends with the ball at Nunez's feet and he is hacked down by Thomas, 20 yards out, as the centre-forward tried to turn the ball round the corner. Free kick. Alexander-Arnold has the ball in his hands.
12 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Patson Daka has twanged his right hamstring while closing down Alisson and looks thoroughly knacked. Vardy starts warming up. After a lengthy delay for treatment, Daka is going to have to depart.
10 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Oxlade-Chamberlain sprays a long cross from the left from a well-defended corner over everyone and out for a goal-kick.
8 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
A replay of the goal shows that Robertson's decision to try to catch Dewsbury-Hall offside before rushing to help was a big mistake.
6 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 1
Dewsbury-Hall was allowed to slip three tackles by Liverpool. But back they come and Thiago latches on to a Amartey headed clearance but blazes over.
Liverpool 0 Leicester 1 (Dewsbury-Hall) Awful defending from Robertson, Henderson and Van Dijk who let Dewsbury-Hall drive his way past all three of them on a third man run that exposes that high line, gliding into the box to clip his shot into the ground from where it bounces up and over the scrambling Alisson.
Dewsbury-Hall just cut through the heart of Liverpool's defence! 💔
What a start for Leicester! 💥 pic.twitter.com/rgOKQeo7XJ
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 30, 2022
3 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 0
Thomas clips a 40-yard pass up the left with his instep for Barnes who has taken up a position between Matip and Alexander-Arnold, lurking in that no man's land between right-back and centre-half. He takes the ball in his stride and posp it through Matip's legs but gets too much on it and it dribbles out for a goalkick.
2 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 0
Alexander-Arnold and Salah combine to pierce the Leicester midfield on the Liverpool right but Thomas and Barnes recover to force the ball out for a Liverpool throw which City defend well.
1 min Liverpool 0 Leicester 0
Leicester kick off, attacking the Kop and work the ball up the left and back again with short passes until Faes hoofs it long and Henderson heads it away.
As well as Pele, Liverpool are also paying tribute to David 'Doc' Johnson
Out come the teams
Its Reds v Blues. Come Back vs The Story of the ...
Klopp on signing Cody Gakpo
"It's not the final thing yet but players develop well with us"
Jurgen Klopp speaks on new signing Cody Gakpo! 🔊 pic.twitter.com/skdKsvevaA
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 30, 2022
Rodgers on Pele
When he was last here it was 2015 and I was still manager here. He always reminds me of my father, who loved Pele. He was his idol, so when I heard my first thought was of my dad, who has obviously passed away as well. But the outpouring of emotion, the tributes by everyone, it really tells you what he was as a player, but also as a person. His legend will live on forever, for sure.
It was very important for us to get some wins before we went away for the World Cup. We assessed it and said let's juts get a few wins even though it wasn't our best form. We've been looking to build the momentum. It's always exciting to see a new lad [Cody Gakpo] coming in. I'm sure he'll be excited to get in and join us as well.
Fabinho's absence tonight
The Liverpool midfielder is missing the visit of Leicester due to the imminent birth of his first child.
Anything is possible from Darwin Nunez tonight
I can't take my eyes off him, plating at full tilt, sometimes at the very extremities of his capabilities. As a friend has pointed out, 'he could score a hat-trick, get a red card or take a ball boy's ear off with a wayward flick'. The only thing I would quibble with is the 'or' should be 'and'.
Klopp on tonight's challenge
Leicester had a difficult start into the season like we did, but they found a way into it. Their line-up has a lot of speed, when they play against us they kick the ball long, so we don’t know exactly what to expect. We have to be ready for everything. It’s Anfield, and it’s a long time since we played here. We can't wait and now we have to create an atmosphere.
Chris Bascombe reports
Expect the minute’s applause for Pele before kick-off to be so vociferous it will be heard in Rio.
Chris Bascombe report from Anfield
There will be a fixture at some point in which Darwin Nunez takes all his chances and will probably rewrite goal records in a single game. He will need to refine his finishing before then, however. The Uruguayan should not be short of confidence going into tonight's fixture with Leicester City given his manager has compared him to Robert Lewandowski. Liverpool’s reliance on Nunez and Mohamed Salah is clear in the starting XI, however, given the shortage of attacking cover on the bench, which is full of young players. It is understandable why Klopp was so keen to add Cody Gakpo.
Brendan Rodgers returns to the stadium where he came so close to winning the Premier League title, but Jamie Vardy is still not ready to start and the absence of James Maddison will hurt.
And now for those of you watching in black and white ...
Liverpool Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Thiago, Henderson, Elliott; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Nunez.
Substitutes Adrian, Gomez, Konate, Keita, Tsimikas, Carvalho, Clark, Bajcetic, Doak.
Leicester City Ward; Castagne, Amartey, Faes, Thomas; Ndidi, Soumare; Dewsbury-Hall, Perez, Barnes; Daka.
Substitutes Iversen, Soyuncu, Vestergaard, Brunt, Mendy, Tielemans, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Vardy.
Referee Craig Pawson (Sheffield).
Klopp on Pele
My dad said to me, whoever comes next, don't forget Pepel was the best. I believe in God and whatever team he's plating for now have got a decent player. But of course it will be a massive loss and may he rest in peace
Two changes for Leicester
Perez and Ndidi in for Tielemans and Praet.
For the final time in 2022 📝 🔵#LIVLEI pic.twitter.com/hNBPzovsh7
— Leicester City (@LCFC) December 30, 2022
One change for Liverpool
Elliott in for Fabinho:
Cody at Anfield 👋 pic.twitter.com/jDsX98uGFb
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 30, 2022
Cody Gakpo arrives at Anfield
He is, of course, ineligible until next year:
Cody at Anfield 👋 pic.twitter.com/jDsX98uGFb
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 30, 2022
There will be a minute's silence for Pele this evening
And the players will wear black armbands in tribute.
Here's the great man across Stanley Park at Goodison in 1966:
There was a fire alarm at Anfield earlier
The ground was evacuated after a smoke alarm went off but everything has been checked and given the all clear. All the early (Liver) birds are back inside now.
Martin O'Neill had many qualities as a manager but the one that endeared him most to Leicester City fans was simply an ability to win matches when eclipsed by talent and investment. In four visits to Anfield from 1996 to 2000, O'Neill's Foxes beat Liverpool three times and drew once; in 11 subsequent trips in the Premier League, they have lost nine and drawn two. No doubt O'Neill was a better strategist than Gerard Houllier but to think he pulled off his final victory there with goals from a 34-year-old Tony Cottee and perennial fourth-choice centre-back Phil Gilchrist against a side containing Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Emile Heskey, Didi Hamann, Sami Hyypia, Jamie Carragher et al, a side that would win three cups the following season, speaks volumes for O'Neill's shrewdness.
How Leicester could do with some of that today. Brendan Rodgers seemed to have chucked in the towel on Boxing Day with his team selection and at 3-0 down at half-time against Newcastle must have feared a shellacking. Given that they had won four of their previous five before the World Cup break, driving them from bottom of the league to 13th, how much they rely on James Maddison for their creative spark was only emphasised by his knee-injury enforced absence. Sadly he won't be back tonight. 2021's signings also continue to disappoint.
As for Liverpool, they were worthy winners at Villa Park where the interplay of their full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold's extraordinary range of passing, and sharp finishing saw off an Aston Villa side that did cause them, and in particular their habitually high defensive line, some problems. There was an encouraging first start for 10 months for Alex Olxlade-Chamberlain, Darwin Nunez ran his socks off even though his finishing did not match his endeavours and Stefan Bajcetic showed why there has been such clamour for him to be more involved.
I can't find anyone, the bookies not least, expecting anything other than a comfortable home win. I suppose Rodgers, who, like most ex-Liverpool managers, Kenny Dalglish in 1993 apart, has struggled on his return to Anfield, unable to be ruthless because of the tug on their heart strings, may have been holding back something on Boxing Day for tonight's match. But to this observer he looks like a man already preoccupied with the window and rushing to get there as quickly as possible.