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Dublin: 21 °C Sunday 22 July, 2018

Classy Coutinho helps Liverpool halt their slump after Vardy misses from the spot

The Reds emerged with the points after a thrilling clash with Leicester.

Coutinho celebrates his stunning free-kick.
Coutinho celebrates his stunning free-kick.
Image: EMPICS Sport

PHILIPPE COUTINHO INSPIRED Liverpool to a thrilling 3-2 Premier League win over Leicester City as the visitors fought off a Foxes fightback that saw Jamie Vardy miss a chance to equalise from the penalty spot.

Having already brilliantly created the opener for Mohamed Salah, Coutinho netted for the Reds for the first time since they rejected advances from Barcelona for his services in the recent transfer window.

There had been pressure on Jurgen Klopp and his side coming into this game after a four-game winless run in all competitions, but those concerns were largely forgotten by the midway point of the first half at the KingPower Stadium as the travelling supporters sang Coutinho’s name.

Leicester’s determined nature meant that it was still far too soon to consider the job done, however, and Shinji Okazaki – a scorer in his side’s midweek EFL Cup win over the Merseysiders – pulled a goal back before the break.

Craig Shakespeare had acknowledged that his men benefited from the half-time withdrawal of Coutinho in Tuesday’s clash, but Liverpool showed they can threaten on multiple fronts as Jordan Henderson coolly converted at the end of a speedy counter-attack.

That strike kick-started a manic five-minute spell in which Vardy both scored and saw a spot-kick saved by Simon Mignolet, who had conceded the foul with a clumsy charge from off his line.

Liverpool held on, though, and have Sadio Mane back in the fold ahead of a tough week in which they must travel to Spartak Moscow and Newcastle United – the Senegalese’s talents would have suited this breathless encounter as both the Reds’ flaws and talents were on show, visibly distressing Klopp at times.

Dejan Lovren’s shoddy early defending allowed Vardy to stay onside and run through on the left, firing the first effort of note at Mignolet. But Liverpool’s response was strong.

Leicester City v Liverpool - Premier League - King Power Stadium Vardy shows his frustration after missing from the spot. Source: Mike Egerton

Emre Can’s blast struck the base of the left-hand post and Salah inexplicably fired a simple rebound wide as Kasper Schmeichel helplessly looked on.

Salah quickly made amends, though, racing onto Coutinho’s fine deep cross to steer a header inside the right-hand upright and beyond Schmeichel.

Back came Leicester and Mignolet was fortunate to escape as he dallied under pressure from Vardy, presenting Okazaki with a shooting opportunity that the goalkeeper then did well to block.

Coutinho’s class soon told again, however. Wilfred Ndidi’s foul handed the brilliant Brazilian a 25-yard free-kick which he duly swept into the net.

Okazaki was ruled to have strayed offside as he netted at the other end and Roberto Firmino then dragged wide, with Liverpool threatening to accelerate out of sight.

But their lead was halved on the stroke of half-time as Mignolet saved Andy King’s header, but then hopelessly flapped at the subsequent corner, allowing the ball to drop for Okazaki to stab over the line.

The game restarted at the same frantic pace and, although the chances initially fell with less frequency, an incredible spell followed.

A lightning Liverpool counter on the right saw substitute Daniel Sturridge tee up Henderson for a calm low finish, but Klopp’s fist-pumping had scarcely ceased when Leicester hit back.

Demarai Gray’s volley was parried by Mignolet for Vardy to nod into the net and the Liverpool goalkeeper quickly made another error, conceding a penalty with a rash challenge on the England forward.

However, having lost out to Vardy on both the goal and the penalty award, Mignolet redeemed himself by blocking his powerful spot kick, which was hit straight down the middle.

That save encouraged further attacking play from both sides, with Schmeichel denying the lively Sturridge and the hosts’ late endeavours unrewarded at the other end.

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