LONDON: Liverpool maintained their pursuit of Champions League football next season and pushed Leicester ever closer to the Championship as Curtis Jones scored twice in a 3-0 win at the King Power on Monday.
Trent Alexander-Arnold rounded off another fine performance in his new hybrid role between right-back and midfield with a stunning strike as Liverpool closed to within one point of the top four.
Jurgen Klopp’s men still need a late-season collapse from Newcastle or Manchester United, but a seven-game winning streak from the Reds has upped the pressure on their rivals, who both have three games remaining to Liverpool’s two.
“It’s all we can do,” said Klopp. “It would be a real shame if they slip and we’re not there. So we have to do our job.
“I think we have qualified for European football which six weeks ago wasn’t in sight.”
Seven years on from shocking the world to win the title, Leicester’s Premier League days look numbered as they remain two points from safety with two games remaining.
They face another daunting task when they travel to Newcastle next Monday in a match that could seal their fate should Everton or Leeds win over the weekend.
“It’s pretty simple, we need to win our next game,” said Leicester interim boss Dean Smith. “It will be tough at St James’ Park. It would be nice to take the lead for once.”
The Foxes’ defensive frailties were again exposed as a bright start from the hosts was quickly forgotten when Jones struck twice in three minutes just after the half-hour mark.
Luis Diaz was allowed to race onto a long ball forward from Alisson Becker before it broke for Mohamed Salah to cross for the unmarked Jones to tap in the opener at the far post.
Salah was the provider again moments later as Jones produced a magnificent touch to control and finish past the helpless Daniel Iversen.
“I thought the second goal looked like we had frazzled minds from the kick-off,” added Smith.
“We have to have clearer minds and think clear under pressure.”
The home crowd quickly turned on their own side and there were boos when Cody Gakpo fired straight at Iversen with a glorious chance to make it 3-0.
Scoring goals has not been Leicester’s problem this season, but they even looked blunt in attack as belief drained from Smith’s men.
Liverpool’s upturn in form after a difficult season has coincided with Alexander-Arnold’s new role as a deep-lying playmaker in midfield when in possession.
The England international displayed his quality on the ball with a sumptuous strike into the top corner 19 minutes from time after Salah tapped a free-kick into his path.
The Egyptian should have had his customary goal to add to a hat-trick of assists.
Salah was sent clean through on goal by Gakpo, but slotted wide with just Iversen to beat to the astonishment of most inside the stadium.
That miss could yet prove important with Liverpool four goals behind Newcastle on goal difference.
But the visitors got the main job done with another three points ensuring they will at least play Europa League football next season.