Liverpool 1-0 Leicester: Five talking points from Anfield
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 26/12/15 10:52pm
Christian Benteke fired Liverpool to a 1-0 win over high-flying Leicester at Anfield.
The substitute's second-half strike ended the visitors' 11-game unbeaten run and got Liverpool back to winning ways after their disappointing defeat to Watford last time out.
Liverpool 1-0 Leicester
Christian Benteke came off the bench to score the winning goal as Liverpool beat leaders Leicester.
Here, we look at five talking points from the game...
Liverpool looking up after ending winless run
Earlier this week, Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports his Liverpool side needed results to "stay in the race" for the top four - and the Reds made a timely return to winning ways against Leicester City.
The 1-0 victory was the first time Liverpool had picked up three league points since the end of November and, after failing to win any of their last four in all competitions, was a late Christmas present for the club and its supporters after their 3-0 defeat to Watford last Sunday.
Klopp had described that loss as "the most disappointing of my Liverpool career", but, less than a week on, the Reds are up to eighth and just five points off the Champions League qualifying spots.
With a trip to Sunderland - thrashed 4-1 by Manchester City on Boxing Day - live on Sky Sports on Wednesday, Liverpool have an opportunity to build some momentum towards a top-four charge in the second-half of the campaign.
"We've had some tough weeks and today we've shown we're a great team," Benteke said. "The last few weeks have been hard for us. But today we showed some great character."
Benteke's chance to shine?
Benteke was Liverpool's match winner on Saturday, sliding in to slot home Roberto Firmino's cross in the second half. He should have scored a second, fluffing a golden opportunity in the dying moments when he only had Wes Morgan to beat, with Kasper Schmeichel stranded up-field.
However, getting the best out of the Belgian on a regular basis remains a key issue for Klopp. The £32.5m summer signing, who had managed just five goals before Boxing Day, was left out for last week's defeat to Watford, with Klopp suggesting Benteke must do more than simply wait for crosses to arrive.
With Origi limping off against Leicester with a suspected hamstring problem and Daniel Sturridge continuing his rehabilitation, Benteke may find himself back in the starting XI at Sunderland on Wednesday.
Against a reeling Black Cats backline, it could be an ideal opportunity to stake a claim for a leading role in the New Year: "[Klopp] explained what he's expecting from me and I tried to do it on the pitch," Benteke said after helping Liverpool beat Leicester. "I'm looking forward for 2016."
Should Coutinho be playing a central role?
As part of Liverpool's switch to 4-4-2 against Leicester, Philippe Coutinho was moved into a wide-left position. The Brazilian remained a threat, going close with several right-footed efforts after cutting in from the flank, while also conjuring up more crosses (nine) than any other Liverpool player and providing three key passes.
However, there was a sense Liverpool were failing to make the most of one of their most creative and important players. When Coutinho was withdrawn in second-half injury-time, he'd registered 59 touches. Of Liverpool's starters, only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and Origi (subbed after 38 minutes) had fewer.
No Liverpool player has scored more (five) or made more assists (three) than Coutinho in the Premier League so far this term. While the formation switch paid off against Leicester, surely Liverpool's brilliant Brazilian warrants a more central role next time out against Sunderland?
Leicester must respond to unfamiliar feeling of defeat
Leicester suffered their 13th loss of the season in all competitions on Boxing Day 2014 but the Foxes have become unfamiliar with the feeling of defeat this term - this was just their second loss inside 90 minutes in 20 games in all competitions in 2015/16.
Arsenal - 5-2 winners at the King Power Stadium - are the only other side to triumph over Claudio Ranieri's men in the Premier League this season. Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham have all failed to beat them.
That adds weight to Liverpool's performance and result. But key for Ranieri will be how his team respond. With a home game with Manchester City on Tuesday to prepare for, there will be little time for Leicester's players to mourn the end of their 11-game unbeaten run.
"The main thing is we rebound from this," full-back Danny Simpson said. "We knew today was going to be tough and they'd react after their defeat [to Watford]. We've got to move on now. We've got another big game in three days and we go again. The lads don't like to lose but we'll react in the right way and turn it into a positive."
Mahrez and Vardy kept quiet
Leicester aren't a two-man team but the influence of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez on their rise from the bottom of the Premier League to the top in 12 months is clear. This season they have 28 goals and 10 assists between them.
However, as Leicester pushed for a late, late equaliser at Anfield both were sat on the bench, withdrawn after failing to damage Liverpool's defence.
From Nathaniel Clyne coolly dealing with a surging Mahrez in the first-half to Alberto Moreno snuffing out a Vardy pass to Shinji Okazaki, Liverpool were able to contain the pair like few teams have done this season.
Even when Mahrez appeared to have jinked his way into a threatening position, Mignolet was on hand to parry his shot over the bar.
Afterwards, Klopp praised his players for taking "Vardy out of the game", while Ranieri revealed his star striker had played with a fever. Whatever the reason, expect Manuel Pellegrini to take a keen interest in Liverpool's approach before his defence lines up against Vardy and Mahrez on Tuesday.