Liverpool arrested their recent damaging league decline with a deserved victory over Premier League leaders Leicester City at Anfield.
The Reds came into this came on the back of an insipid display at Watford, in which they were routed by the newly-promoted side, and were also without a league victory in almost a month.
Prior to this game, many Liverpool fans had agreed that their boss Jürgen Klopp needed a welcome Christmas tonic, and there was extra emphasis on the importance on this game as they faced an in-form Leicester City who lied top of the Barclays Premier League table. Klopp had a peach of an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, and boy did they do that from the off.
The German boss had made two changes to the side that travelled to Vicarage Road last Sunday: Lucas Leiva failed to consolidate his place in the squad, and Dejan Lovren was included in the starting line-up, as Martin Skrtel remained on the sidelines after a hamstring injury that was retained in the previous fixture. An alteration in formation was also made, as the 4-4-3 formation reverted to 4-4-2, as Liverpool sought for more of an attacking stature, with Divock Origi playing as an isolated forward up top.
The changes in personnel seemed to have given Liverpool an influx of confidence from the off, as Phillipe Coutinho curled an acute effort just wide of the post. For Leicester meanwhile, they seemed to keeping intact as a defensive unit and created a half chance as in-form Riyad Mahrez skipped past Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno, only to have his cross cleared by French defender Mamadou Sakho at the byline.
However, there was in truth little pizazz on show from the Premier League leaders in comparison to their last away game at Goodison Park, as Liverpool took assured control throughout the first half. The Merseysiders’ were creating good openings and at times came close to bursting the visitors’ bubble.
Roberto Firmino, who was criticised heavily by Reds’ fans after his performance against Watford, had seemed to have answered the haters as his general work rate did stand out in the Liverpool side. He threaded a ball through to Belgian striker Divock Origi, but only to see his attempt on goal blocked by Leicester defender Wes Morgan.
Origi again was posing threats to the visitors’ defence, as he linked up with Coutinho to almost set up a brilliant goal for the Brazilian, but Coutinho’s effort ghosted just over the goal.
The Reds’ were not just finished there, and Kaspwer Schmeichel was called into action twice successively, denying Emre Can’s low effort, and stifled a potential opening for Divock Origi.
Leicester, however almost punished Liverpool’s profligacy as Jamie Vardy, of all people glanced a header into the Kop end, after a cross from Marc Albrighton.
Liverpool then suffered another injury blow as Jürgen Klopp was forced into substituting Divock Origi, who seemed to have obtained a hamstring injury, for fellow Belgian striker Christian Benteke.
Just before the interval, Leicester carved out their best chance of the evening as Kante worked the ball to Riyad Mahrez, who fired a shot just under the bar which Simon Mignolet had to tip over.
The second half proved to be enthralling, as Leicester ultimately began it the brighter with a more measured and assured performance. There was havoc in the Liverpool back-line, as Mamadou Sakho had to make a clearance out of desperation, after a poor pass which caused panic for the Liverpool goalkeeper.
However, Liverpool eventually found their feet in the match as Christian Benteke squandered a great opportunity to head home from Jordan Henderson’s delivery, but instead sent it flying a long way over the bar.
Five minutes later, he did eventually find the desired target.
Roberto Firmino cut back a ball for Benteke, who slid the ball into the back of the net to give Liverpool the lead. The goal seemed to give Ranieri a willingness to alter his team to get a result, and threw Nathan Dyer and Leonardo Ulloa on, for Shinji Okazki and Jamie Vardy.
The plan seemed to go accordingly as Leicester continued to exert pressure going forward as Nathan Dyer almost diverted a Christian Fuchs cross past Mignolet, but the Belgian goalkeeper made a sharp save at his near post.
Despite Leicester’s continued pressure, Liverpool could have wrapped the game up in the closing stages as Coutinho’s dipping effort that skimmed the woodwork. The biggest miss of the evening, however was the goalscorer Benteke who somehow failed to convert home in front of a glaring goal.
However, Liverpool went on to record a victory for the first time since 29 November.
Liverpool will face Sunderland away from home on Wednesday, whilst Leicester will be up against Manchester City at home on Tuesday night.