LIVERPOOL, Dec 26, (AFP): Christian Benteke’s second-half strike made all the difference as Liverpool beat Premier League leaders Leicester City in a 1-0 victory at Anfield on Saturday.
This was Leicester’s second visit to Merseyside inside a week after last Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Everton but they went home empty-handed this time around following an encounter that Liverpool dominated.
Liverpool went into this contest having picked up a solitary point from their last three matches and manager Jurgen Klopp was only too aware that a victory was needed if their resurgence since the German’s arrival was to continue.
In a bright opening period, Liverpool went closest after just three minutes when Philippe Coutinho’s curling effort from 25 yards just drifted wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s far post.
Although Liverpool could not break down Leicester’s defence early on, they appeared the more composed side as Coutinho and Emre Can pulled the strings going forward.
However, Leicester’s resolute defence has been a highlight of their season and Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, back in the side after a hamstring problem, both remained strong at the back.
After 15 minutes, Coutinho again had a decent opportunity but blasted over following impressive work from Divock Origi while Adam Lallana then thrashed wide just 60 seconds later as Liverpool surged forward.
Can was the next Liverpool player to threaten as Schmeichel had to be at his best to keep out his low curling effort before Origi also went close at the near post.
Leicester barely had any possession and could not unleash Premier League top-scorer Jamie Vardy on the home side to any effect while Riyad Mahrez and Shinji Okazaki were equally as quiet.
Liverpool’s quest for goals was not helped, however, when Origi had to come off with seven minutes of the first half remaining but the fact that £32.5m striker Benteke replaced him underlined the strength in depth Klopp has at his disposal.
Leicester’s best chance in the opening 45 minutes fell towards half-time as Mahrez’s trickery led him inside the Liverpool box but Simon Mignolet — back in the side after missing last weekend’s 3-0 loss to Watford — did well to turn the shot over the crossbar.
In the second half, Benteke continued to be a nuisance to Huth and Morgan while Can and Coutinho also probed the away team’’s defence until, finally, Benteke gave Liverpool the lead after 63 minutes.
Roberto Firmino’s low cross from the left was met by Benteke first time and he slid his effort past Schmeichel.
Leicester desperately pushed for an equaliser and Liverpool had Mignolet to thank for a brilliant point-blank save from Nathan Dyer with 16 minutes remaining.
Anfield became increasingly nervy as the end approached yet both teams, to their credit, continued to push forward whenever they could.
Can smashed one effort high into the Kop from outside the box while Mahrez continued to run hard for Leicester in a bid to break down Liverpool at the back.
As the end approached, a long throw by Christian Fuchs caused confusion in the Liverpool box but Mignolet recovered well but that was as close as Leicester got.
Henderson then squandered one glorious chance late on as he opted to pass rather than shoot with the Leicester goal at his mercy before Benteke did the same in the dying seconds and although that enraged Anfield, Liverpool’s fans ultimately went home happy.