Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes snow on the Anfield pitch contributed to a frustrating night for his Premier League leaders as they were held to a draw by mid-table Leicester City.
Liverpool extended their advantage over nearest rivals Manchester City to five points yet failed to build on Sadio Mane’s early goal on a pitch that Klopp believes made quick passing more difficult.
“You saw that the ball didn’t roll really,” said the German, whose side were denied a second-half penalty when Naby Keita was fouled by Ricardo Pereira.
“If you then have the ball pretty much for 70 to 80% of the time it makes life really uncomfortable. The only problem is if it stays on the pitch and that was actually the case.”
Klopp’s side started the game in explosive fashion as they sought to capitalise on Manchester City’s defeat at Newcastle and took an early lead when Mane finished off a sublime 30-pass move in the third minute.
But Harry Maguire deservedly equalised in front of the Kop at the end of the first half after the hosts failed to deal with a free-kick carelessly conceded by left-back Andrew Robertson.
Maguire had earlier escaped a red card after deliberately fouling Mane 40 yards from goal when the winger looked to sprint clear, while Pereira’s foul on Keita added to Klopp’s frustration.
“I think everybody agrees there could have been a penalty and maybe should have been a penalty,” said the Liverpool boss. “I don’t know why it was no penalty.”
Liverpool could have gone seven points clear with victory over a team that had lost their previous three league and cup games.
But Leicester were threatening throughout and are only the second team to leave Anfield without suffering defeat in the league this season, following Pep Guardiola’s side on 7 October.
“We have a point more than before – it is not exactly what we wanted to have, but still everything is fine,” added the former Borussia Dortmund manager.
Despite Klopp’s side moving a point further ahead of Guardiola’s City, this result will be widely viewed as two dropped.
Except for their initial flurry, Liverpool were nervous, sluggish and a long way from their incisive best on an icy surface – yet they remain in a strong position with 14 games remaining as they chase a first league title since 1990.
Liverpool had won seven top-flight games in a row at Anfield and expectant home fans chanted the name of their former manager Rafael Benitez – who masterminded Newcastle’s win over City – after Senegal winger Mane scored by cutting inside and finding the net with a low, skidding shot.
Brazil striker Roberto Firmino was then denied by a fine save from Kasper Schmeichel but the Foxes grew into a game that saw two of the leaders’ star performers this season have relatively poor nights.
Alisson, who gifted Leicester a goal at the King Power Stadium on 1 September, made two mistakes in the first half, with the second error leading to a golden chance for James Maddison, who headed wide.
Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk, who was ill in the build-up to the game, was also not at his imperious best and Leicester’s equaliser came when he failed to pick up England centre-back Maguire at the back post.
While Klopp and Liverpool were frustrated when Martin Atkinson ignored the claims for a penalty for the clip on Keita, a draw was the correct outcome.
It has been a poor start to 2019 for Leicester after they followed their FA Cup exit at League Two Newport with defeats at home to Southampton and away at Wolves.
But at Anfield they recovered from a disastrous start and were both threatening in attack and organised in defence, with Marc Albrighton causing problems at one end and Ben Chilwell keeping Mohamed Salah – the league’s leading scorer – quiet at the other.
It has been suggested Claude Puel, in charge of the Foxes since October 2017, is under pressure and Leicester’s recent results have not done the Frenchman any favours.
But his players produced an energetic performance that suggests they are fully behind their manager.
It was a timely effort too, given it starts a run of tough fixtures that include games against Manchester United and Tottenham.
Leicester, 11th in the table – three points behind seventh-placed Wolves – had lost on six of their last seven visits to Anfield yet might have been celebrating a famous victory had they been more clinical.
At 1-0, Maddison headed wide from Albrighton’s cross following the error by Alisson and then the same player horribly mis-hit another chance after Chilwell got behind the Liverpool defence when it was 1-1.
Alisson then made a save with his feet to prevent a Firmino own goal after Liverpool again failed to pick up Maguire from a set piece, while Demarai Gray shot at the keeper instead of passing to team-mates who were in much better positions.
Nevertheless this was another positive result against a side in the top six, following their victories over Chelsea and Manchester City in December.
Puel will now hope to coax more consistency from his players against teams around them in the table.