Bad weather, worse performance - Liverpool miss golden chance to surge clear of City in title race

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Jurgen Klopp's men could have opened up a seven-point lead with a win over Leicester City at Anfield but, in the end, were lucky to earn a 1-1 draw

If this is January, can you imagine how Anfield will be come April and May?

Sloppy in the snow, Liverpool’s Premier League title charge suffered a dent here. Rarely has a five-point lead at the top of the table felt like such a disappointment.

It isn't disappointing, of course, but after Manchester City’s slip-up at Newcastle on Tuesday, this was the hottest ticket in town. The door was open for Jurgen Klopp’s men to take full advantage. A seven-point margin awaited.

For the first time all season, they fluffed their lines. For the first time all season, they dropped points against a team they would have expected to overcome.

Leicester City had beaten both City and Chelsea already this term, and Claude Puel’s counter-attacking Foxes can add another noteworthy result to their collection after this. Indeed, had the visitors shown a tad more quality in the final third, they’d have taken all three points.

As for Liverpool, they must reflect on a missed opportunity, a night when the weather was bad and their performance was worse. Nervy, sluggish and wasteful, this was a display which belonged to a different era. Klopp will hope his side do not live to rue it.

"We take what we get," said Klopp afterwards. "And tonight it’s a point. It’s more than we had before the game, and that’s fine. Am I overly-happy? No, because we wanted to win the game of course."

It all looked so rosy for the Reds when Sadio Mane fired them ahead after just two minutes, but like City the night before, they were unable to turn a fast start into a comfortable evening.

Sadio Mane vs Leicester

On a pitch slowed by the snow, sloppiness invaded their play. From Alisson in goal to Mohamed Salah up front, Liverpool just didn’t find their feet. Harry Maguire’s equaliser, plundered from close range right on half-time, felt almost inevitable.

"The snow is actually not a problem, the problem is when it stays on the pitch and that was the case," said Klopp, not entirely convincingly. "The ball didn’t roll really, and when you have the ball for 70-80 per cent of the time, then it makes life really uncomfortable."

Anfield had expected a procession, but it got an ordeal. Leicester had chances to win it after the break, whereas Liverpool failed to rouse the kind of finale we have come to expect.

"To break down a side who defend like Leicester did tonight, you have to accelerate, you have to speed up in decisive areas," Klopp admitted. "Sometimes we didn’t do it, I don’t know exactly why, and sometimes we couldn’t do it."

As a result, Kasper Schmeichel was underworked, though the home side are entitled to ask why referee Martin Atkinson failed to award a penalty when Ricardo Pereira clipped Naby Keita in the box. "I don't know what he was thinking in this moment," said Klopp. "You have to ask him."

Welcome to a title race, you could say. Liverpool have been close to perfect in the league so far, but exceptional levels are difficult to sustain.

City, let off the hook after their aberration on Tyneside, can ramp up the pressure by beating Arsenal before Klopp takes his team to West Ham on Monday night.

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Liverpool will at least have James Milner back for that one, and perhaps Trent Alexander-Arnold too. Jordan Henderson filled in at right-back here, and did an admirable job all things considered, but his side lacked control and presence in midfield and were troubled by Demarai Gray and Co. on the break, particularly in the second half. The captain, and surely Fabinho too, will start in their natural positions in London.

The upshot, of course, is that as disappointing as it felt, Liverpool still extended their advantage in the title race. They drew and City lost. They still hold all the cards, though recent games suggest we are in for more nervy afternoons and evenings between now and May.

At the end, the Kop sang ‘Liverpool, Liverpool’ in an act of support and defiance. Their team are still very much in the driving seat, but it could have been so much better.

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