It appears to be a case of one step forward, two steps back for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool at the moment.
In search of three consecutive wins in the Premier League for the first time this season, they contrived to draw this game against Leicester City when the points had already looked to be in the bank.
A year ago January represented the start of a brilliant run for Liverpool. They went unbeaten in the league until a fateful loss to Chelsea at the end of April, and in the process chalked up 11 straight victories.
Liverpool regained some of the attacking flair and guile which characterised last season in their 4-1 win over Swansea City on Monday night.
Against Nigel Pearson’s relegation scrappers, who packed midfield, rather more gritty stuff was required and with their backs to the wall, Liverpool fell short.
Familiar problems with Liverpool’s shaky defence resurfaced again to hamper their top four hopes and dampen the optimism which had come with their displays during the hectic festive period.
Throughout the 90 minutes Liverpool’s back three barely exuded the belief that they would keep a clean sheet, and until Brendan Rodgers can eradicate that nervousness — which quickly transmits to the crowd — they will continue to surrender advantages such as this.
Liverpool have now conceded 27 goals in 20 Premier League matches. Having solved their lack of potency at one end of the pitch, the problems have reappeared at the other.
“You have to defend better,” Rodgers lamented for the umpteenth time his season.
“We have to do better on the edge of the box. The shots come in too easily.
“We weren’t bright enough on the ball, didn’t keep the ball for long enough, and the rhythm of our passing was a bit slower than normal.”
Just as Liverpool enjoyed more than the odd slice of luck in the second half of the last campaign they benefited from a piece of good fortune to take the lead from a penalty.
Raheem Sterling, once again operating in a lone central role in Rodgers’ strikerless 3-4-2-1 formation, attempted to cut the ball back and his low cross was blocked by the sliding presence of Wes Morgan.
The ball struck the Foxes captain on the nose, but referee Mike Jones decided Morgan had used his arm and pointed to the spot despite the protests of the visiting players.
“Things happen very quickly,” Pearson said. “It’s going to fuel the debate again about the use of technology. We see it again and know exactly what happens
“It is unfortunate to have to deal that but I’m not going to go down the route of being ultra-critical.
“I would like moving forward for the officials to have the benefit of technology. I keep getting asked if it would be good for the game and I think it would be. It would clear up decisions and wouldn’t cause any difficulties in the ground.”
Steven Gerrard made no mistake placed a low effort into the bottom-right corner of the net. It was another of Liverpool’s triumvirate of attackers in Philippe Coutinho that enabled the Reds to increase their cushion before the interval, this time winning a penalty which was altogether clearer cut.
Coutinho tried to lift a cross into the area and the ball clearly struck Danny Simpson on the hand, and Gerrard elected to bury his spot-kick into the opposite corner as he sent Hamer the wrong way.
However, guilty of complacency, perhaps, Liverpool squandered that advantage. Adam Lallana, equally impressive here as he was in the win over Swansea, limped out 10 minutes into the second half and was replaced by Fabio Borini and shortly after Leicester got themselves back on level terms with two quick goals.
The first was brilliantly worked as Jamie Vardy controlled Matty James clever high ball on the edge of the penalty area and teed up David Nugent who executed a superb half-volley which flew into the top corner of the net.
Liverpool’s defence barely had time to recover their composure when Leicester levelled on the hour mark through Jeff Schlupp, who was allowed time and space to shoot and arrowed a low shot past the diving Simon Mignolet. The Reds had gone from control to chaos.
“We had a plan in place in terms of after the opponent scores or after we score,” Rodgers added.
“The five-minute spell, the idea of what to do and how to work that but we didn’t do it. We gave away simple possession, 10-yard passes and we lose it. We recover the ball again and give it away again. We have to defend better.”
LIVERPOOL (3-4-2-1): Mignolet 5; Can 6, Toure 5, Sakho 7; Henderson 6, Gerrard 7, Lucas 6 (Markovic 72; 6), Moreno 5 (Lambert 85; 6); Coutinho 7, Lallana 7 (Borini 55; 6); Sterling 6.
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-1-1): Hamer 6; Simpson 5, Morgan 5, Wasilewski 6, De Laet 7; Mahrez 6, Hammond 5 (Cambiasso 67; 6), James 7, Schlupp 7; Drinkwater 6 (Nugent 37; 7); Vardy 7 (Ulloa 75; 6).
Referee: Mike Jones.