Liverpool leave it late to keep winning run going
James Milner’s stoppage-time penalty finally saw off Leicester.
James Milner scored a penalty four minutes into added time to extend Liverpool’s club-record winning run to 17 matches and ruin Brendan Rodgers’ return to Anfield.
The midfielder held his nerve to snatch a 2-1 win – a 17th in succession in the Premier League – after James Maddison’s late goal had cancelled out Sadio Mane’s first-half opener.
Four years and a day since he was sacked by the Reds, Rodgers looked like he had become the first manager since his Foxes predecessor Claude Puel in January to prevent Liverpool winning at Anfield.
But for the second successive week Jurgen Klopp’s side benefited from a stroke of luck as an error by substitute Marc Albrighton led to the winger fouling Mane and presenting Milner with an opportunity he rarely passes up.
An angry confrontation followed, with Leicester’s Ayoze Perez having to be dragged away by team-mates before continuing to argue with Liverpool’s Andy Robertson as the teams left the field.
Mane took his personal tally to 17 in his last 15 starts on this ground in scoring his 50th Premier League goal for the club on his 100th appearance but he and his team-mates should have made sure of the result before Maddison’s late intervention.
Milner’s strike extended their 100 per cent record to eight matches and increased their advantage over Manchester City to eight points, although they have a chance to reduce it at home to Wolves on Sunday.
Klopp sprang a couple of surprises with his team set-up, dropping Joe Gomez – who looked rusty in the chaotic midweek Champions League win over Red Bull Salzburg – to hand Dejan Lovren his first Premier League start since May.
The other saw Roberto Firmino switched to the left, Sadio Mane to the right and Mohamed Salah through the middle in an apparent attempt to occupy Leicester’s full-backs and nullify any threat they may have in providing the ammunition for Jamie Vardy.
Milner blasted the first chance over after Trent Alexander-Arnold nutmegged opposing full-back Ben Chilwell on the byline, while at the other end Lovren, running back towards his own goal, headed a Harvey Barnes cross onto the roof of the net.
Firmino bundled another Alexander-Arnold cross wide and Klopp thought there should have been a penalty for a push on Virgil Van Dijk as Liverpool began to establish some momentum.
The breakthough, when it came in the 41st minute, was efficient and clinical.
Van Dijk played out from the back and Milner, exchanging passes with Robertson, sent a raking pass down the left. Mane raced forward and confidently steered past Kasper Schmeichel – something he should have done moments later from Firmino’s cut-back, with Milner shooting over from Salah’s lay-off as Liverpool finished the half strongly.
Rodgers replaced Barnes with Albrighton for the second half but the chances continued to fall to the hosts as Salah forced a close-range save, an Evans tackle on Mane ricocheted into the side-netting, Firmino’s angled drive flew wide and Robertson and Wijnaldum both shot at the keeper.
Vardy almost delivered a sucker punch at the other end when Albrighton’s low, angled cross put him clear but Adrian, most likely playing his last league match with Alisson Becker set to return after the international break, stuck out a leg to deny him.
The game remained in the balance, evidenced by Dennis Praet’s long-range effort whistling past the post, and with Liverpool unable to shut down their opponents the anxiety began to grow.
It manifested itself in Maddison’s well-taken goal after substitute Ayoze Perez got the wrong side of Fabinho to slide through a pass for the forward to shot through Adrian’s legs, possibly aided by a deflection off Lovren.
But having profited from a goalkeeping error at Sheffield United a week ago Liverpool were beneficiaries of Albrighton’s scrambled mind deep into added time.
The winger, tackling back, took a loose ball away from Schmeichel and gave Mane the chance to retrieve possession near the six-yard area. In attempting to rectify his error, he brought down the Senegal international.
Milner, as he so often does, did the rest from the spot with cool efficiency, allowing Liverpool to go to Manchester United after the international break with a chance to equal City’s Premier League record of 18 wins in a row.