Liverpool beat top-of-the-table Leicester City 1-0 on Boxing Day, with Christian Benteke’s second-half effort the difference between the two sides.
Liverpool 1–0 Leicester
Premier League – Anfield – Sunday 26th December 2015
Goals: Benteke (63)
Jurgen Klopp made three changes to the side that started in the 3-0 loss to Watford last weekend, as Liverpool looked to continue their strong recent Boxing Day record.
Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren both returned from injury, in place of the dropped Adam Bogdan and injured Martin Skrtel, while Divock Origi came in for Lucas Leiva.
It was an attack-minded team from the German, with Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino all supporting Origi.
A remarkably in-form, table-topping Leicester team awaited, in what was sure to be another big test of Liverpool’s 2015/16 credentials.
Coutinho bent an early shot wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s goal, while the fabulous Riyad Mahrez threatened at the other end.
It was an impressive opening 15 minutes from the Reds, who dominated the current league leaders. The Foxes always looked a danger on the counter-attack, however.
Coutinho blazed over following Origi’s slightly disappointing cut-back, while Lallana could only find the side-netting from a tight angle.
Emre Can tested Schmeichel from distance at the midway point of the first-half, while Sakho couldn’t divert a wayward Coutinho shot into the net.
The lively Origi twice forced Schmeichel into smart stops, with the Belgian showing far more zip than his compatriot Benteke has in recent weeks.
Disappointingly, Origi’s impressive afternoon ended prematurely because of a hamstring injury, with Benteke replacing him shortly before half-time.
Mignolet made a good save to thwart Mahrez’s stinging drive in front of the Kop, and it was the last moment of note in an entertaining opening 45 minutes.
Neither manager made a change at the interval, with the contest finely poised.
It was a rather scrappy affair in the early stages of the second-half, with Sakho looking uncharacteristically nervy after the restart.
The match was still goalless at the hour mark, but despite Leicester looking threatening sporadically, it was Liverpool who were the only team really looking to win the game.
Benteke bore the brunt of the home fans’ frustration on a number of occasions, but the 25-year-old became the hero in the 63rd minute, finishing clinically from close-range following good work from the quiet Firmino.
N’Golo Kante almost equalised with 17 minutes left on the clock, but Mignolet out his effort. Claudio Ranieri’s side started to their up their game a little.
A surging run from Can eventually saw the young German fire high into the Kop, while Leicester substitutions saw their star men Jamie Vardy and Mahrez both leave the pitch.
Coutinho whipped a tremendous strike just over the crossbar late in the day, and despite a nerve-jangling end to the game, Liverpool hung on for a crucial victory.
A top-four finish feels more realistic all of a sudden.
Man of the Match: Jordan Henderson
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Can, Henderson, Lallana (Allen 90′), Coutinho (Lucas 90′), Firmino, Origi (Benteke ’38).
Subs not used: Bogdan, Toure, Teixeira, Randall
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Mahrez (Kramaric 80′), Kante, King, Albrighton, Okazaki (Dyer 69′), Vardy (Ulloa 69′).
Subs not used: Schwarzer, De Laet, Wasilewski, Inler.
Referee: Martin Atkinson