By The Rex Factor
It's unclear what the biggest takeaway from Monday night's 3-1 thumping of Liverpool by English Premier League champion Leicester City.
Obviously, getting the first goals of the calendar year in league play was vital to Leicester getting out of the relegation zone and up into 15th position with the three points. But caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare seemed to acquit himself well in his first managerial gig in charge after the ouster of Claudio Ranieri last Thursday.
More importantly, the Leicester players said that they were extra motivated to play well because of some of the backlash they received in the English media, where rumors have abounded that the players were indeed the ones calling for Ranieri's ouster.
Jamie Vardy scored on both sides of halftime and the Leicester players finally gave him some serviceable balls, something that has lacked all season despite as many as 10 starting players from the 2015-16 side being on the pitch at the same time for much of the campaign. The hosts were the superior team in all facets Monday despite going off as a 9-to-2 underdog to beat Liverpool outright. Danny Drinkwater's goal just before the half was brilliant and put the Foxes up 2-0 at the intermission.
The Leicester City fans held a moment of tribute for the dismissed Ranieri in the 65th minute, with them saying his name with gusto and lighting up the stadium with their cell phone lights.
It remains to be seen if the champions can use this win as a springboard to bigger and better things for the remainder of the season. It also remains to be seen how the betting markets will view them in light of what happened Monday. A trip to the King Power is coming Saturday from Hull City, which flattened Leicester on the opening day of the Premier League season back in August. Leicester is only slightly more than even-money favorite in that game. Then a trip comes from Sevilla in a March 14 Champions League game that suddenly looks like it could be interesting, with Leicester netting an away goal last week in their 2-1 loss in Spain. Still, the English champions will be an underdog and are currently fetching 5-to-2 in some of the early markets.
Liverpool remain in fifth place after getting only a 68th minute consolation from Phillippe Coutinho to account for the final score, but now coach Jurgen Klopp faces many questions after the flat effort by the Reds in their first game back since the 16 days in between games on this winter break. Luckily for him, however, he's still around to answer them. The same cannot be said for Ranieri, and efforts by Leicester City when he was in charge were bad enough to force his premature ouster. Will Shakespeare continue to coax these efforts out of the Foxes going forward? I refuse to give credit to the owners for sacking the Italian after what he accomplished in his time at Leicester, but if the results mirror Monday's in the near future then perhaps the plug needed to be pulled, even if the players claim they're not the ones responsible for what happened - at least off the pitch.