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African All Stars

Ndidi showed his depth with performance vs Liverpool

14:00 EAT 30/12/2021
Wilfred Ndidi
Despite giving away a penalty, the 25-year-old put in an impressive shift against the Merseysiders while playing in a rather unfamiliar position

It was quite a story on Tuesday night as Leicester City stunned Liverpool at the King Power Stadium, with Ademola Lookman stealing all the headlines for his winner in a 1-0 victory.

While the on-loan forward from RB Leipzig took the majority of the plaudits, another Nigerian held his own in the Foxes lineup.

Unable to build on his heroics against Manchester City, Kelechi Iheanacho had a quiet game against Liverpool but it was an eventful outing for Wilfred Ndidi.

With up to six defenders injured for Leicester, Brendan Rodgers was forced to field a makeshift backline, Ndidi and Ghanian centre-half Daniel Amartey at the heart of defence. While the Nigerian had featured in defence on several other occasions even in the current season, it was the first time he was paired alongside Amartey in a back four.

It seemed like Ndidi was in for a long day in defence after he was adjudged to have fouled Salah in the box, after only 15 minutes, giving away an early penalty.

On what would count as rarity, Salah missed from the spot after Kasper Schmeichel saved his effort and kept his side in the game.

That proved to be a lifeline for Ndidi, as well as other members of the Leicester defence, and they battled hard to keep a precious clean sheet that could well impact the title race a great deal.

Ndidi can be class all over the pitch

Over recent years, the Nigerian has made a name for himself in the holding midfield position, having been compared to some of the league’s best on several occasions.

Given his instinct for breaking up plays and making those rugged tackles when needed, it seems fitting that he can fit in as a make-shift defender but he deserves even more recognition after this week. Taking on a Liverpool side that have been rampant in front of goal and scoring in every single game for the past eight months, what were the chances of keeping their hungry forward line, headlined by Mohamed Salah, at bay?

It didn’t make it any better that Leiecster have struggled defensively this season and it is no surprise they have the worst defensive record in the top half. In fact, only four other sides in Norwich, Newcastle United, Leeds United and Watford have conceded more than the Foxes’ 33 goals so far in the Premier League campaign. Regardless, it was a different story this time around, and Ndidi played his part as well.

After giving away that penalty, Ndidi barely put in a wrong foot for the rest of the game and his partner in Amartey was equally a colossus all through.

For someone who is already being considered ‘world class’ in midfield in some quarters, not many might realize that he indeed started out in defence.

Ndidi’s first position was in central defence, where he featured for the Flying Eagles of Nigeria in 2015 at the U-20 World Cup.

His move to Belgian side K.R.C Genk in the same year saw him converted to a defensive midfielder, and he has not looked back since.

While Rodgers already has a class midfielder on his hands, he can be confident in knowing that he has another reliable name to call upon as a replacement in defence, if the need arises.

On the national front, interim-manager Augustine Eguavoen will surely be keeping a close eye on Ndidi, and perhaps the rare possibility of deploying the 25-year-old in a ‘new’ setup, where his versatility could prove to be an asset for the Super Eagles.