In Depth

Leicester rediscover their edge as life after Ranieri begins

Jamie Vardy scores twice as the fallen champions put Liverpool to the sword after a weekend of fierce criticism

Leicester City 3 Liverpool 1

It took the sacking of Claudio Ranieri for Leicester to produce the most polished league performance of the season as they moved clear of the relegation zone with a thumping 3-1 defeat of Liverpool.

The man who guided them to their remarkable title triumph nine months ago was sacked last week, paying the price for a shocking slump of form that has seen the Foxes without a league win, and even without a league goal, in 2017.

Ranieri's departure unleashed a storm of criticism, most of it aimed at the players, who were accused of underperforming this season and betraying the spirit of 2016. Some of the Leicester faithful arrived wearing Ranieri paper masks, reports The Sun, and his name was never far from their lips throughout the evening.

"I could see in their eyes that they were up for the fight in the warm-up," said Leicester caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare. "Having taken training with them, I know the criticism has hurt and perhaps there was a little more fire in the belly because of that."

Jamie Vardy opened the scoring for Leicester on 28 minutes, running onto Marc Albrighton's long pass before producing a crisp low finish to beat Simon Mignolet. Danny Drinkwater then scored his first league goal of the season, firing home five minutes before the break and Vardy got his second of the night on the hour mark, heading Christian Fuchs' cross into the visitors' net to make it 3-0.

Liverpool pulled one back eight minutes later through Philippe Coutinho but they were unable to compete with a Leicester side still evidently smarting at the tsunami of scorn heaped on their heads in recent days.

"We've come in for a lot of unfair stick with things that have been in the press but you've seen that the lads wanted to react," said Vardy. "The performance did that and we want to do it consistently. I couldn't put my finger on why we haven't been doing that regularly. We've been working hard and it's just not been happening."

The victory moves them up to 15th position, although they remain just two points clear of the relegation zone and Shakespeare knows that Monday night's performance must not be a one-off.

"They know they are guilty of underperforming," he said of the squad. "But this is only one result and we must build on that."

The result was another blow for Liverpool, who have won just one of their seven league matches in 2017, and they remain fifth, a point behind Arsenal and a point ahead of Manchester United, both of whom now have a game in hand on the Reds.

"We should get criticised. This inconsistency makes absolutely no sense," said a dejected Jurgen Klopp. "It's not that Leicester were over-aggressive tonight, I think we were not physical enough. We knew how Leicester would play, go back to their roots. We could have done much better. We let them be Leicester of last year - that's our fault."

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