Liverpool lose in from Carabao Cup as Henderson, Ox leave Reds wanting
It was a familiar story for Liverpool as they again failed to make their fast start count. A now-customary defensive breakdown led to Leicester City's knocking the Reds out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle. Liverpool were dominant in the first half, but the game changed with the departure of Philippe Coutinho at the break, and the second half is one they will want to quickly forget.
The fixture load has just been lightened. On a serious note, Danny Ward performed well on his full debut.
A side that hasn't won silverware for five years cannot afford to turn its nose up at any trophy, and going out with a whimper like this is simply not acceptable. The second-half performance was abject.
5 (out of 10) -- The team Jurgen Klopp picked should have been enough to win the game, and for 45 minutes it seemed almost certain that it would be sufficient. The decision to withdraw Coutinho at half-time should not have had the dramatic impact that it did, but Klopp was then unable to arrest the slide and only made one further substitution, despite some of his starters' performing terribly.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Danny Ward, 7 -- A confident and assured debut from the Welshman. He had no chance with either goal but was excellent in dealing with crosses and made a fine save late on to deny Demarai Gray.
DF Jon Flanagan, 6 -- Brought in from out of the cold and gave the kind of committed performance you'd expect, but he offered little in attack and tired in the closing stages, allowing the previously well-shackled Gray to have more of an influence.
DF Joe Gomez, 7 -- The youngster looked composed and in full control in the first half, but when Leicester got on top, he found it more difficult and became a little erratic with his passing. Overall, though, much more good than bad.
DF Ragnar Klavan, 6 -- Did little wrong. Read the game well and made numerous interceptions but had some problems with the lively substitute, Shinzi Okazaki.
DF Andrew Robertson, 7 -- Outstanding in the first half when he was continually charging forward and delivering quality crosses. That changed after the break, as without Coutinho pulling the strings, there was no opportunity for him to overlap. Robertson defended well enough and was unfortunate not to prevent the first goal when he got across to make a challenge only to see the ball deflect off him and into the net.
MF Jordan Henderson, 4 -- Nowhere near good enough from the captain. Didn't do anything to drive his team on, was sloppy with some of his passing and was nowhere to be seen for Leicester's opening goal. When Liverpool needed leadership, he offered none.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 6 -- Lively and full of running in the first half but faded after the break as Liverpool lost all attacking momentum. Took a heavy knock in a challenge with the keeper and was replaced soon after.
MF Marko Grujic, 5 -- Did some nice things but always looks to be on the edge of a sending off due to the physical nature of his game. Picked up an unnecessary booking with a rash challenge that cost his team later on, when he was unable to risk fouling Islam Slimani and instead allowed the striker to breeze past him and score.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 7 -- The Brazilian ran the game in the opening 45 minutes and looks as though he is close to a return to top form. Almost scored with an effort that followed a mazy run into the penalty, and everything Liverpool did went through him. When he left the field at half-time, Liverpool's hopes of winning the game left with him.
FW Dominic Solanke, 6 -- Lively and threatening in the first half when he was unfortunate not to score with a couple of efforts. Continued to battle away after the break, but the service had dried up completely, and he got little joy out of a Leicester defence that took control after the withdrawal of Coutinho.
FW Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 3 -- Repeatedly gave away possession, and his end product was almost as bad as his set pieces. Awful.
FW Ben Woodburn, 6 -- Started slowly but grew into the game, and by the end, he was Liverpool's only real attacking threat. Went close with one clever curling effort and -- unlike some of his more senior colleagues -- showed plenty of invention and desire.
FW Danny Ings, NR -- Great to see him back after all of his injury problems, but he had little time or opportunity to make any impact.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN's Liverpool bloggers and the founder of LFC fanzine and website The Liverpool Way. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.