On Cody Gakpo’s first appearance at Anfield, Liverpool discovered a new scorer. Not the Dutchman, however, who was sat in the stands before his transfer from PSV Eindhoven is ratified and registered, but a far more improbable figure. Sadly for him, Wout Faes’ Anfield bow was an unforgettable occasion.
Mohamed Salah is yet to score twice in a game for Liverpool at Anfield this season. Strangely, Faes has, with twin own goals. He was the inadvertent match-winner for Liverpool, turning a deserved lead for Leicester into a comical defeat. Not since Cardiff’s Danny Malloy in 1959 had an opponent struck twice in a match for Liverpool. The Leicester centre-back had bagged his personal brace by half-time, each in garishly bad fashion. Liverpool know seasons can turn on freakish incidents and, two seasons ago, they might not have qualified for the Champions League but for a goal from their goalkeeper, Alisson. Now Faes’ ludicrous night has the potential to prove a similar turning point.
It was a rare display of haplessness, and not merely because only three players had ever scored two own goals in a Premier League game before. Leicester’s defensive record had been transformed since Faes’ arrival. The summer signing had been a revelation but this was an aberration of an evening.
It came a cost to Leicester, who suffered a second successive defeat since the restart. When his side led for more than half an hour, Brendan Rodgers may have envisaged a first win at Anfield since his final victory as Liverpool manager, against Aston Villa in 2015. Leicester had beaten Liverpool in their final game of 2021, albeit at the King Power Stadium. There was no sequel. “Three-nil to the Leicester boys,” sang the visiting fans after their players got the final touch for each goal, but City lost.
On a night of remarkable generosity, Liverpool had created chances for their visitors with a series of misplaced passes. Yet their own defensive mishaps when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall waltzed through a hole in their rearguard to put Leicester ahead were then overshadowed.
It is a curiosity of the campaign that Trent Alexander-Arnold is still yet to officially record an assist, though Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham had already put the ball in his own net from the right-back’s cross. Then, when the Liverpudlian angled in a low centre, the sliding Faes contrived to slice an attempted clearance so it looped over Danny Ward and in via the far post. It got worse for him. After Darwin Nunez’s dink over Ward struck the post, Faes reached the rebound only to hoof it into the unguarded net. If it was seven minutes of madness, Liverpool appreciated it.
They had been dreadful for much of the first half; Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson had set up Leicester breaks with horribly misplaced passes and each may have been culpable for the early opener.
Liverpool had a habit of conceding the first goal in games before the World Cup; they have now let in the first goal in two of three since it. Leicester were without the injured James Maddison, though he was scarcely missed when the player operating as their No. 10 put them ahead. Dewsbury-Hall latched on to a lay-off from Patson Daka, evaded Henderson’s despairing lunge and strolled through a huge gap between Virgil van Dijk and Robertson to slot a shot past Alisson. It was a moment when Liverpool could have done with Fabinho’s presence; instead, with his wife due to give birth, the Brazilian was elsewhere and Henderson struggled to afford the defence protection as Liverpool looked fragile on the counter-attack.
And Faes’ inadvertently clinical touch was required on a night when both Nunez and Salah were wasteful; the grounds for signing Gakpo may have been underlined both by their misses and by Jurgen Klopp’s shape as, without a natural left winger, he swapped to 4-4-2.
Salah at least found the net once, though it was disallowed as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was offside; it was a reprieve for Ward, who had given the ball away. He shot wide when Liverpool trailed and had two efforts blocked by Ward when they were ahead.
The persistent Nunez was twice his strike partner’s supplier but continued his odd form since the World Cup, when he has been both rampant and yet unable to find the finish. He had six attempts, but just one, a header, was even on target. Indeed, Henderson, with a half-volley, came closer to extending Liverpool’s lead than their idiosyncratic striker.
They could have paid a price for that profligacy. Harvey Barnes would have levelled but for a terrific save from Alisson. Leicester’s left winger was lively and Rodgers, who had dropped Youri Tielemans to look for added ballast with two defensive midfielders and had lost striker Daka to injury after a quarter of an hour, may have felt his gameplan was working until Faes’ night turned farcical.
It left Leicester’s fans seeking solace in humour. “We’ve scored all the goals,” they chorused. Faes must wish he had not contributed the majority of them.