Life without Ranieri starts with a bang as Leicester come out fighting

Only the most naive among us would assume that Craig Shakespeare has performed miracles on the training ground in the last four days.

Most teams produce a backs-to-the-wall performance when a manager gets the boot, but not many have done it as emphatically as Leicester City.

Those that slaughtered the players for letting down their manager will feel their point has been proved by the way Leicester beat Liverpool 3-1 tonight. Equally, those that claimed Ranieri was the real problem will feel their argument is justified. As with most cases, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. 

For the first time since their 4-2 ambush of Manchester City in December, Leicester looked like the team that won the Premier League by 10 points last May. They played fast and direct, targeting Lucas Leiva at the back. Christian Fuchs bombed long throws in on the Liverpool box, and Wilfred Ndidi suddenly looked like the midfielder they’d bought to replace N’Golo Kante.

Jamie Vardy was like Popeye after a can of spinach. Ever since that day against Man City he’d looked every bit the player who had been in non-league football five years ago. He hadn’t scored in seven league games. He hadn’t even had a shot on target in the league since December 17th.

But this evening he was the 2015/16 version. He loitered on the shoulders of Lucas Leiva and Joel Matip, constantly flirting with the offside line. And after 28 minutes he pounced. A loose ball fell at the feet of Marc Albrighton, who split the Liverpool centre backs with a first time through ball, Vardy sprinting clear to slide it in at Mignolet’s near post.

And having broken that long wait for a goal in the league, his second almost seemed inevitable, making it 3-0 with a glancing header after Christian Fuchs’s pinpoint inswinging cross.

In between those goals was a moment of brilliance from Danny Drinkwater.

For Liverpool, it was miserable, the first half in particular. The world and it’s mother expected Leicester to shoot with both barrels, yet Jurgen Klopp’s side looked like they were still sunning themselves in La Manga.

You could have three Philippe Coutinhos leading the line, but when you have Lucas Leiva at the back, you’re constantly playing catch-up. From title challengers a few short months ago, they now face a fight for the top four.

Leicester also face a fight, and showed tonight that they still have plenty of it.

Where it’s been since May remains up for debate though.