Curtis Jones inspires Liverpool to leave Leicester on the brink
Curtis Jones’ double pushed Leicester to the brink of relegation as Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 win – two years to the day since the Foxes’ FA Cup triumph.
The midfielder’s first-half brace and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s stunner eased the visitors to victory as the hosts capitulated to leave them staring at the drop.
That it came on the anniversary of their first ever FA Cup win underlined the 2016 Premier League champions’ fall from grace.
Harvey Barnes called it one of the biggest games in the club’s history, but Leicester folded to remain two points from safety with two games left.
The Foxes have sleepwalked into this position. Stricter finances dictated last summer’s quiet transfer window, but the club stood still and have paid the price.
An air of acceptance had begun to descend on the King Power Stadium and, even before the Reds marched in to claim three easy points, the writing appeared on the wall.
For Liverpool, they moved to within a point of Manchester United as their late charge for the top four continued.
A seventh straight win – the most painless by far – kept them on United’s coattails, although they will need to maintain their form and hope their rivals slip up.
There was never any suggestion of a surprise on Monday, though, as Leicester surrendered.
Even prior to kick-off the Foxes had lost Danny Ward, Caglar Soyuncu and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall to injury.
That forced Dean Smith to give Jonny Evans a first Premier League start since October, showing the desperation in a dire situation.
Leicester needed a strong start and were bright enough. James Maddison’s arrowed pass and Youri Tielemans’ dummy sent Barnes away, only for Alisson Becker to smother the danger when Jamie Vardy broke through.
Yet their early gusto waned as Liverpool bossed possession before turning on the afterburners as the hosts fell apart.
Alisson’s long clearance found Luis Diaz to nod down for Jordan Henderson. He teed up Mohamed Salah to cross for Jones to steal in ahead of the dawdling Boubakary Soumare and find the far corner for a 33rd-minute opener.
Just three minutes later the England Under-21 international doubled the lead, following a lengthy VAR check, when he collected Salah’s pass and was given the freedom to turn and rifle past Daniel Iversen.
It was the midfielder’s third goals in four games, having ended an 18-month drought against Tottenham last month.
It was mayhem and Leicester, with just one win in their previous 13 games, collapsed as Iversen needed to deny Cody Gakpo a quickfire third.
Desperate for a response, the Foxes at least came out for the second half swinging and Alisson tipped Barnes’ effort wide.
That was as good as it got, though, as Liverpool slipped back into their controlled rhythm, with Iversen beating Salah’s shot away.
It was then curtains with 19 minutes left when, after Evans fouled Henderson, Salah tapped a free-kick to Alexander-Arnold to blast into the top corner from 25 yards.
Salah shot wide when clean through but, by then, the King Power had begun to empty as quickly as the hope drained from Leicester, who look doomed.