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By Peter Hall
LIVERPOOL, England, Oct 5 (Reuters) - A stoppage-time penalty from James Milner earned Liverpool a dramatic 2-1 victory over Leicester City at Anfield on Saturday, maintaining the league leaders’ 100% start to the Premier League season.
On his return to the club he almost guided to the 2013-14 Premier League title, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers set his current side up to frustrate a Liverpool team chasing a 17th consecutive league victory.
The hosts, who came into the clash unbeaten in their last 43 league games at Anfield, did initially struggle to break down Leicester as Rodgers seemed to have got his tactics spot on.
This relentless Liverpool team cannot be kept at bay for too long, however, as Sadio Mane brilliantly slotted home his 50th league goal for the club to break the deadlock in the 40th minute.
Chances for Liverpool to double their advantage came and went, with Mane and Mohamed Salah guilty of poor finishing, and their profligacy looked to have cost their side as James Maddison equalised with 10 minutes left.
However, the drama was not over, as Mane was brought down in the box to give Liverpool the chance to snatch all three points and Milner converted the penalty to send Liverpool, with Manchester City not in action until Sunday, eight points clear at the top of the standings.
“We knew we were going to fight for the win and we did,” Klopp said. “Without luck we cannot win the amount of games we have won but over the 90 minutes, we deserved it, we deserved the three points.”
Rodgers was given a warm welcome by the Anfield crowd, but the home fans were unusually quiet in the early stages as Leicester started well.
Milner, Liverpool captain in the absence of Jordan Henderson, had the first chance, but blazed over from a good position.
Leicester continued to frustrate Liverpool until Mane latched onto Milner’s long ball over the top, capitalised on a misjudgment from Jonny Evans and fired home the opener — his eighth goal in all competitions this season.
For all their positive play, Leicester did not muster a shot on target in the first half, but Liverpool continued where they had left off after the break, with Salah forcing Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel into a fine save before Mane fired wide.
Leicester had a big chance in the 66th minute as Jamie Vardy was set clear, but Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian raced from his line to smother at the feet of the Foxes striker.
However, the Spaniard should have done better as Maddison, on the end of a fine Ayoze Perez pass, sneaked the equaliser under him to stun Anfield into silence.
It looked as though Liverpool were done, especially given Salah limped off with a late injury but, after a mix-up in the Leicester defence, Mane was brought down in the penalty area by Marc Albrighton.
Referee Chris Kavanah pointed to the spot, it was checked by VAR, before Milner sent Schmeichel the wrong way to spark jubilant scenes around the ground.
“I think Sadio Mane made the most of the contact,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think if it had not been given by the referee it would have been overturned by VAR. When the referee gives decisions it is hard for them to overrule it.” (Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Ed Osmond)