English Premiership

'Class' Benteke leaves Klopp beaming

2015-12-27 08:07
Christian Benteke (AP)

Liverpool - Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was full of praise for his side as they returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Premier League leaders Leicester City at Anfield.

Before Saturday's encounter, Liverpool had picked up just one point from their previous three league matches, culminating in last weekend's miserable 3-0 defeat by Watford at Vicarage Road.

But they were far brighter against Leicester and substitute Christian Benteke made the difference in the second half, slotting home Roberto Firmino's cross to finally make Liverpool's dominance count.

"Beating the top of the table is tough," Klopp said. "A lot of teams have tried and it's not easy, so I'm very pleased. It was deserved and I think we played a game we should play against these opponents.

"We did much better today (Saturday). It was difficult for Christian to come in. He didn't warm up and he had to start immediately, but we knew if we concentrated that we would get our chances.

"We had a lot of patience and it was good. We deserved the three points."

Although Benteke squandered a golden chance in the dying moments, shooting at defender Wes Morgan after Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had gone up for a throw-in, he emerged as the match-winner.

Klopp said that he was happy with Benteke's form, despite the Belgian striker starting on the bench against both Watford and Leicester.

He came on for Divock Origi, who pulled his hamstring in the first half, and never looked back.

"He did really well in the last week in training, but I decided this starting line-up because of the things you saw from Divock," Klopp explained.

"Christian is a class player. Christian came in, it wasn't easy, but in the second half he was much better. He fought intensively and hard for the team."

Leicester have risen to the Premier League summit this season through a blend of commitment and teamwork and both were on display in a clash that saw the visitors scrapping for their lives from the start.

Origi, Emre Can, Philippe Countinho and Jordan Henderson all shone for the home side, but central defensive pairing Morgan and Robert Huth were outstanding for the visitors, who remained top thanks to second-place Arsenal's 4-0 drubbing at Southampton.

They managed to resist everything Liverpool threw at them until the 63rd minute, when Benteke slipped what proved to be the winner past Schmeichel.

Leicester duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have been two of the brightest players in the Premier League this season, but they were given very few chances to shine against a Liverpool team intent on using attack as the first form of defence.

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has been ultra-realistic about his side's incredible run of form this term and he remained philosophical after what was only their second defeat of the campaign.

"I think Liverpool deserved to win," said the Italian, whose side host third-place Manchester City on Tuesday.

"We are very down because we wanted to win, but it is not possible every time. We fought good, but if another team is clearer in front of goal, then well done to them.

"We tried to do the best towards the end. I'm not happy, but it's OK."

Ranieri also felt that he had pinpointed why Leicester fell short against Liverpool.

"We were too anxious and nervous at the beginning," he said.

"In the second half we conceded, but if we are more attentive then we could have closed Benteke (down) better. After that we tried to do our best, but it was too late.

"Now is important to recover mental energy because there is always another match and a big challenge. It's OK. Sooner or later we have to lose."

 

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Wednesday, 19 February 2020
Manchester City v West Ham United, Etihad Stadium 21:30
Saturday, 22 February 2020
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur, Stamford Bridge 14:30
Sheffield United v Brighton & Hove Albion, Bramall Lane 17:00
Crystal Palace v Newcastle United, Selhurst Park 17:00
Southampton v Aston Villa, St. Mary's Stadium 17:00
Burnley v AFC Bournemouth, Turf Moor 17:00
Leicester City v Manchester City, King Power Stadium 19:30
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