Jürgen Klopp was left bewildered by his side’s poor performance as Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes were dealt a bitter blow by a 1-0 defeat at Leicester on Tuesday night.
Ademola Lookman’s second-half strike proved enough to secure victory for the Foxes who — having shipped four goals inside 25 minutes at Manchester City on Sunday — shutout Klopp’s side for the first time in 29 league games to inflict only their second defeat of the season.
An uncharacteristically sloppy performance was epitomized by Mo Salah’s first-half penalty miss — only his second for Liverpool — which ended a run of 15 consecutive successful spot-kicks stretching back to October 2017.
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel guessed the right way, only to parry the ball back into Salah’s path, but the Egyptian proceeded to head the ball onto the crossbar before slicing the rebound wide in a near-comical series of events that summarized the most frustrating of evenings at the King Power Stadium.
Salah and Jordan Henderson both went close, before Sadio Mane blazed over Liverpool’s best chance of the game from open play. Lookman — with just his fourth touch after coming on as a substitute — then ensured Liverpool paid the ultimate price for their wastefulness.
With Leicester’s only shot on target all evening, the former Everton forward drove past Alisson at the near post following a swift break, with Liverpool unable to respond in the remaining half an hour.
‘We played a really bad game’
Now six points adrift of leaders Manchester City — seemingly imperious in their defense of the title with nine-straight victories — defeat strikes a bitter blow to Liverpool’s title hopes.
With a trip to fellow chasers Chelsea — level on points with the Reds — on Sunday, Klopp admitted that it is already a “big gap” to the summit at the halfway stage.
“To top that, Chelsea and us play against each other,” Klopp told reporters.
“It was not our plan to give City the chance to run away but if we play like tonight we don’t have to think about catching up with City.”
Though sure of the uphill battle to catch Pep Guardiola’s side, Klopp was left baffled by his team’s sub-par display at both ends of the pitch that led to a “deserved” defeat.
The German lamented a lack of rhythm that contributed to wasteful finishing and poor defending, but was unable to explain why there were “so many performances below normal level”.
“We played a really bad game and so yes, well deserved,” Klopp said.
“We were just not really ourselves tonight … we started OK — I didn’t 100% like the intensity but it’s a start — but then we lost rhythm and never found it back, and that’s our fault.”
For Leicester, victory avenged a heartbreaking league cup quarter-final exit at Liverpool a week ago, and lifted the Foxes to ninth.
Having come under pressure following an inconsistent start to the campaign and the 6-3 thrashing at City, it also served as a much needed boost for manager Brendan Rodgers — the former Liverpool boss — who praised his side’s “heroic” display.
“When you play against the two teams we have played, it was going to be a huge test of our mentality and spirit and physicality,” Rodgers told Amazon Prime.
“There’s probably not a team more physical in the league than Liverpool so to come through with a clean sheet and in the way we played showed our resilience.
“I am lost for words really as it was such a heroic performance in the context of the two games.”