The scoreline suggests a tighter game than it actually was in the end. In fairness this score could have been much bigger on another day and the Reds will actually be more disappointed at not keeping a clean shhet. It wasn't vintage stuff but the quality was there to ensure we deservedly won all three points. The late goal merely made an anxious finish to the game.
The Reds won the toss and attacked the Anfield Road end in the first half with Leicester getting proceedings underway. Leicester came into this game having won their previous one 4-0 and had some confidence but some of that disappeared after just five minutes as Craig Hignett went down injured having failed to reach a short throw in down by the Kop main stand corner. Hignett went down in agony and was carried off allowing Jordan Stewart on to the pitch.
The Reds were fielding their same attacking formation and they pushed on from the very start of the game and make Leicester look very ordinary as their passing and more importantly their movement had Leicester tied up at times. When you play like this you always need a goal just to convert that superiority and calm the nerves down. The wait was only twenty minutes but before that the chances had been there for the Reds to score.
Harry Kewell went close fourteen minutes in when he blasted a volley from a corner ball on target but Walker was behind it all the way. The very next corner for the Reds really should have produced a goal and only Owen will know how he didn't get enough on the ball to score. A corner was initially cleared from Leicester but Smicer whipped the ball back into the danger area. Owen managed to get to the ball just before Scowcroft but couldn't get enough on the ball to beat Walker who managed to save the ball whilst on his backside on the line.
Dickov and Gerrard threatened to get caught up in something on eighteen minutes which merely resulted in Gerrard loosing possession on halfway. Gerrard fought back though and won the ball in the Reds area. The challenge was merely shoulder to shoulder but Bent went down claiming a penalty which the referee ignored.
The opening goal came after twenty minutes from the penalty spot. Michael Owen was first felled just outside the box but nothing was given. Smicer was on hand to whip the ball off his feet just inside the area and as Smicer tried to jink his way through Taggart whipped his ankles from him and the referee this time had no choice but to point to the spot. Leicester complained about their non penalty just a minute earlier but the decision was made. Michael Owen stepped up and sent Walker one way whilst slotting the spot kick the other for a deserved lead.
The goal changed the way Leicester had to play and it gave the Reds a little more room in attack as a result. Two minutes after the goal and Kewell forced Walker into a save with a header from an excellent Diouf cross. Owen then forced Walker to save with a shot from the edge of the area a few minutes later. Leicester had another shout for a penalty short of the half hour mark as Diouf tackled Izzet in the area but again the referee waved play on as Diouf won the ball.
The Reds started to struggle a little in the latter stages of the half and it tended to be when Diouf and Kewell switched sides. The switch seemed to unbalance the sides and the movement Diouf and Finnan had disappeared. The players did realise this though as Diouf reverted quickly back to the right hand side of the area and towards the end of the half had a glorious chance from the edge of the area but shot wide.
The two sides came out for the second half and Ian Walker continued to be one of the few keepers to acknowledge the Kop's applause as he ran to guard the Kop net. A dying breed which is a shame. The Reds got the half underway attacking the Kop end and were on the attack from the off. They knew that they really needed another goal to completely relax.
Perhaps one of the bizarrest of decisions on the day came ten minutes in as Harry Kewell his a superb shot on goal. The ball though took a huge deflection and went out of play. A corner in everyones book bar the referee's. That decision came though as it was the referee himself who deflected the ball away from goal. I'm really not sure what the decision should have been but it certainly moved the shot off target. Leicester were not really troubling the Reds at the back though which gave the Reds more freedom.
Stevie Gerrard really should have scored on sixty nine minutes play. He stared a move with Owen which resulted in the ball flying up in the air towards goal. As everyone stood still Gerrard ran on and faced with only the keeper hit his shot on goal but it was too straight and had enough on it to go up and over the bar. In hindsight a stab with the underside of his boot would probably have resulted in a goal.
Leicester brought on Brain Deane for the final nineteen minutes of the game as they remained within a goal distance of the Reds. Deane replaced earlier sub Stewart. The Reds though continued to dominate the goal chances. On seventy three minutes Owen controlled a ball twelve yards out central to goal and rocketed his shot on goal only to see Walker parry it. Kewell tried to turn the ball into the empty net but Walker somehow made up the ground across goal to block the shot.
The second goal finally came on seventy five minutes through Emile Heskey. Gerrard flicked a ball over the top of the defence for Owen. The ball took him away from goal a little but he held it up well and supplied Diouf who took an extra touch before crossing to the six yard box where Heskey stuck a boot out to score past Walker at the near post with the ball going to the far one. No more than the Reds deserved and gave them that extra breathing space.
That goal proved crucial as time went on. Danny Murphy came on for Smicer just after the second goal and with a couple of minutes left Anthony Le Tallec made his home debut as he replaced Diouf. Le Tallec had a couple of chances to score but also had to endure Leicester pull a goal back through Markus Bent. Igor Biscan missed his header but as the ball went through the centre, the defence seemed to ignore Bent who charged through and blasted past Dudek from fourteen yards out. It meant an anxious last two minutes of injury time but in fairness it was the Reds who came closest to scoring late on when both Le Tallec and Riise couldn't quite time finishing off an excellent cross from the right.
Overall the Reds were well worth their win and in fairness it could have been bigger. The main positive in this game was the patience and ability to break down the Leicester side. It's that ability which has lacked so often in the past and hopefully this is a sign of things to come. On other days they will bag more goals but at the end of the day three points will still be the end result.
MotM : Michael Owen - worked hard all day for the side making good movement across the front line and was unlucky not to have scored from open play with a couple of great runs. Kewell, Smicer and Diouf all played excellently too in the supply line.