Liverpool 4 Leicester 1
The Main Stand is new and improved - to the tune of €135 million, 8,500 seats and 108 feet - but whether or not its inauguration at the start of Jurgen Klopp’s first full season as Liverpool manager marks an upturn in fortunes on the field remains to be seen.
Make no mistake, this was a thoroughly deserved humbling of the defending Premier League champions, following on from the four goals Liverpool scored on the opening weekend at last season’s runners-up Arsenal.
But, when a toothless 2-0 defeat at Burnley is also factored in, it is hard to avoid the thought that Liverpool threaten to be just as inconsistent as they have been for many of the 27 seasons since they last won the title.
Klopp, in his first summer at the Anfield helm, spent €75 million on six new players, one of whom, Senegal forward Sadio Mane, was simply stunning here.
Yet, in defence, the goal gifted to Jamie Vardy late in the first half, when stand-in centre-half Lucas presented the ball to the England forward, and another uncertain display from goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, suggested Klopp’s team is doomed to be just as schizophrenic as those that preceded it.
“I said it was not Lucas’s mistake but everybody knew it was,” said Klopp of his half-time team talk.
“I didn’t speak about the goal we conceded, I spoke about the reaction we showed after the goal. That made no sense so that’s what we tried to change in the second half and that’s what we did that was really good.
“In my opinion, we can be really good but we have to show that we can still be good when something happens in the game that we don’t want.”
That resilience is something that only time can develop but there was enough attacking prowess shown here to suggest there will be many high points for Liverpool supporters during this campaign.
A host of legendary former players were paraded on the Anfield pitch before kick-off, among them free-scoring forwards Robbie Fowler, John Aldridge and Ian Rush, who then watched as the €40 million Mane’s pace terrified the champions.
Future opponents will doubtless have taken note, which suits the former Southampton man. “I will be happy if they are afraid of me because it will make it easier for me,” said Mane. “When you are new it can sometimes be difficult to adapt into the team. But it is easy with great players like Daniel (Sturbridge), Coutinho and Firmino as well.
“When you play in a stadium like Anfield you want to give your best and get an ovation at the end, so I try.
“I’m just pleased because it is a great compliment to be compared to the legendary players but I am still young and learning and need to give my best for the team.”
The hoopla over the stand proved no distraction to Klopp’s team, who delivered in style on a gala day, with two goals from Roberto Firmino and strikes from Mane and Adam Lallana.
“We could build a new stand every week, that would be absolutely no problem for me,” said Klopp.
“It was a wonderful week for the club. Who am I to say ‘Come on, we must all focus on the football.’
“No, the squad have to concentrate on the football. A lot of people make Anfield tours and we have a lot of new things to see. It is really different. I love it that it’s still Anfield. It is bigger but it is still Anfield, it is still perfect.”
The defending champions are far from perfect, beaten twice in their opening four games, although their ever-sensible manager Claudio Ranieri remains typically upbeat with his Foxes playing their first ever Champions League game at FC Brugge on Wednesday and record signing Islam Slimani to come into the line-up after his late arrival in England.
“The situation is okay. He arrived Friday night and just met his team-mates,” said Ranieri.
“Now he is ready for tomorrow to make a training session, and to be available for the next match in the Champions League.
“We have to react. Last season when we lost we always had a good reaction. I am waiting for a good reaction.
“I think it is much easier, much better because now their mental energy will return much quicker because everyone wants to play in the Champions League in Brugge.
“It will be another kind of football but we are ready. Now it is important to think about Champions League to react and regenerate the batteries, and to be solid.”
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Mignolet 5; Clyne 7, Matip 6, Lucas 5, Milner 7; Wijnaldum 7 (Stewart 75, 6), Henderson 8, Lallana 8; Mane 9 (Moreno 90), Firmino 8, Sturridge 8 (Coutinho 75, 6).
Substitutes (not used): Karius, Grujic, Klavern, Origi.
LEICESTER (4-4-2): Schmeichel 8; Simpson 6 (Hernandez 34, 6), Huth 6, Morgan 5, Fuchs 5; Mahrez 7, Drinkwater 7, Amartey 5, Albrighton 6 (Ulloa 65, 6); Okazaki 6 (Musa 46, 7), Vardy 7.
Substitutes (not used): Chilwell, King, Zieler, Gray.
Referee: C Pawson 6
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