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Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet looks dejected after Leicester City's Jamie Vardy scored 3rd goal - Reuterspic
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LONDON, 28 Feb 2017:
Leicester City returned to form in stunning fashion yesterday as Jamie Vardy scored twice in a 3-1 Premier League defeat of Liverpool – that also lifted the champions out of the relegation zone.
In their first match since manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked, after five successive defeats in which they failed to score a goal, Leicester produced the kind of vibrant display that carried them to glory last May.
Liverpool were simply overwhelmed as their hopes of a top-four finish suffered a severe setback.
Vardy gave Leicester the lead in the 28th minute with his first league goal since December.
Danny Drinkwater made it 2-0 with a stunning volley six minutes before halftime and Vardy headed rejuvenated Leicester’s third on the hour as Liverpool crumbled.
Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession and Philippe Coutinho gave them a lifeline after 69 minutes but Leicester held on for a crucial victory which took them up three places to 15th.
“It feels good, we need to enjoy it while it lasts and build on this,” Drinkwater said. “You could call it a reaction, we have come under a bit of stick.”
Vardy said he could not put his finger on why Leicester had suddenly produced a performance worthy of champions after a pitiful defence of their title.
“We’ve been working hard on everything we’ve been asked to do but it’s not been happening. Tonight it all clicked.”
Leicester’s players looked fired-up from the first whistle and Vardy caught Sadio Mane with an ugly tackle inside a minute.
Liverpool, well-rested after a two-week break and some warm weather training in Spain, lacked any rhythm and keeper Simon Mignolet was called into action to stop a Robert Huth header.
Leicester’s caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare made only one change from the side that took to the field for Ranieri’s final game – last week’s 2-1 loss in Sevilla in a Champions League last-16 first leg – bringing in Shinji Okazaki for Ahmed Musa.
Okazaki’s flying header forced Mignolet into another save before Vardy scuffed a volley at the Liverpool keeper having produced a wonderful piece of skill to control a high ball.
The England striker, playing higher up the pitch on Shakespeare’s instructions, made no mistake in the 28th minute though, racing on to Marc Albrighton’s perfectly-weighted pass before drilling a powerful shot past Mignolet.
It was Leicester’s first goal for 638 minutes, and 11 minutes later they had another. James Milner’s clearance bounced towards Drinkwater 25m out and the midfielder steadied himself before launching a rocket that flashed into the net.
The expected Liverpool response never materialised after the break and Leicester went further ahead on the hour when Vardy timed his jump perfectly to head in Christian Fuchs’s cross.
Leicester’s fans roared “3-0 to the champions” while also chanting the name of Ranieri and it was easy to imagine they had been transported back to last season when their team took the title by 10 points.
Coutinho scored in the 69th minute with a cool side-foot finish and the visitors suddenly came to life, although it was too little too late for Juergen Klopp’s side who have won only once in seven league games.
“I could see in their eyes that they were up to the fight in the warm up,” the 53-year-old coach Shakespeare said later.
“I know the criticism has hurt and perhaps there was a little more fire in the belly because of that.
“They (the players) have had to take criticism but we set the tone, they were excellent in the first 10-15 minutes. All I asked of the team was to remember what they were about.”
Vardy, who has not scored a league goal since December, said Shakespeare had told him to play further forward and he menaced a shaky Liverpool defence throughout with his pace.
“I told Jamie Vardy to be a nuisance and a threat for the team,” said Shakespeare, who has been Leicester’s assistant manager since 2001. “He was outstanding tonight.”
Sheakespeare would not speculate on whether he would be offered the job on a full-time basis.
“My remit was get them ready for Liverpool and I have done that. Let’s see what happens,” he said. “I think it might be too early but the club will come to me if there are any changes.
“Three points, it’s a start. It’s only one game but it’s a start. I think I can do the job.”
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