Liverpool tightened their grip on the Premier League title race even further as they produced a masterclass to overpower nearest challengers Leicester City at The King Power Stadium to extend their lead to an imposing 13 points.
Jurgen Klopp’s side started the match 10 points clear of the Foxes with a game in hand – then produced a performance of such stature and dominance it is almost impossible to see how they will not claim their first title in 30 years.
Liverpool’s slender half-time lead, courtesy of Roberto Firmino’s header from a magnificent Trent Alexander-Arnold cross, did not reflect their superiority – but they turned this into a powerful statement victory after the break.
Leicester were enjoying their best spell when Caglar Soyuncu handled in the 71st minute, and substitute James Milner scored from the spot with his first touch seconds after coming on.
Bobby’s second goal tonight was the 500th we’ve scored under Jürgen Klopp in all comps 🔥 pic.twitter.com/qLijSmIh8u
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 26, 2019
Liverpool added the flourishes their magnificent display deserved when Alexander-Arnold set up another for Firmino, who scored with a cool finish, before the England defender got his own reward with a thumping right-foot angled finish.
The leaders have now dropped only two points from their first 18 games and, having lost only one league game last season, it would take a collapse of unthinkable proportions from an outstanding team to cast this huge advantage aside.
Flawless Liverpool are champions elect
Liverpool have had too many near misses since their last title win in 1990 to get ahead of themselves – but how can anyone see beyond them this time?
They put together a magnificent campaign last season, with their only defeat – by reigning champions Manchester City – proving decisive. But they are in no mood to be denied this time.
From the first whistle here, despite the flashlights and pyrotechnics designed to whip up the home support and team, Liverpool were in control. They could have scored twice inside the first minute through Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane.
Leicester, suffering a dip in form, were pressed out of their stride relentlessly in a performance without a flaw from Liverpool.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez were imperious at the back, while full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson posed a huge attacking threat while being assured at the back.
Liverpool controlled possession and were always a danger in attack. Leicester may have been in this game until the last 20 minutes, but Klopp’s men always had extra gears and went through them to produce a victory of champions.
Leicester’s brutal reality check
Leicester City have had their season put into perspective by successive defeats against reigning champions Manchester City and now Liverpool.
It will be a bitter disappointment after hopes were raised just a couple of weeks ago that Brendan Rodgers’ team could yet mount a title challenge to rival their miraculous victory in 2015-16.
That will not be happening now. Liverpool emphasised the gulf between the two sides in brutal style here, barely giving the Foxes a chance and subduing the cacophonous pre-match atmosphere within seconds.
While this was a painful night, Rodgers and his players should draw great encouragement from the manner in which they have muscled between the Premier League’s two superpowers and put themselves in prime contention for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Rodgers looks like he may have to rebuild some confidence, but there has still been much to admire from Leicester City this season – and still plenty to go for in the months ahead.