Reality check for Foxes
Ranieri outfoxed by Klopp as Leicester suffer blow to title hopes
(Christian Benteke 63)
Leicester City have captured the imagination of football fans with their meteoric rise.
Then the clock struck 12.
At Anfield yesterday, the English Premiership's Cinderella lost 1-0 to Liverpool with a performance that suggested their title challenge might be a pipe dream after all.
The feeble display was a stark contrast to the arrogant attacking shows that had taken them to the top of the English top tier.
Their success this season is down to their flair and dynamism in the opponents' penalty area but, this time around, they could find no outlet to demonstrate their offensive prowess.
Riyad Mahrez, the Algerian wizard who has set England alight with his excellent wing play, was reduced to an anonymous figure.
In-form striker Jamie Vardy, close to unstoppable this term, hardly had a sniff of the Liverpool goal and his involvement was eventually cut short by Claudio Ranieri early in the second half.
With the striking pair - who had accounted for 28 league goals - misfiring, Leicester looked a pale shadow of their former selves.
For once, manager Ranieri, hailed as the miracle worker after transforming the Foxes from relegation candidates to title contenders, looked helpless in the face of Liverpool's dominance.
But for some poor play in the final third by the hosts, Leicester would have lost by a wider margin.
The past few weeks have seen plenty of debate over whether Leicester can sustain their stunning title charge.
Suddenly, the signs are not looking that promising now.
For Liverpool, this was a significant improvement from the debacle at Watford last Sunday.
Even if they were not back to their best, there was at least a sense of purpose and conviction in their play.
With their rediscovered confidence, the Reds bossed Leicester around, especially in the first half.
Yet, the Reds were also frustratingly wasteful when the chances to open up Ranieri's men came their way.
Midfielder Adam Lallana chose the wrong option of going for goal himself when he should have crossed to teammates in better positions, and could only find the side netting.
Striker Divock Origi was guilty of the same poor judgment, when he decided to aim for the near post when a pass to either one of two teammates in the centre of the penalty box would have almost certainly given Liverpool a first-half lead.
Roberto Firmino, starting in his favourite position just behind the striker, struggled to make any significant contributions for the first hour.
Although when he did, it would be a telling one.
With a superb pass in the 63rd minute, he found substitute striker Christian Benteke, who made no mistake with a fine finish.
Leicester finally made a fight of it in the final moments of the match, threatening to steal an equaliser as Liverpool looked to wind down the clock.
But it was too little, too late.
This was Leicester's first loss since September.
Ranieri must be hoping that this was simply a one-off, and not the day the bubble finally burst.
The last few weeks were hard for us. Today we showed some great character. We have a big squad, some quality players. You have to be patient. I spoke with Juergen Klopp a few days ago and he explained what he needed from me. And I tried to do it on the pitch.
— Liverpool match-winner Christian Benteke