Liverpool 1 Benteke 63'
Leicester City 0
Jürgen Klopp assembled a fluid team in an effort to improve Liverpool's attacking fortunes, giving precedence to Divock Origi's movement over Christian Benteke's strength. He placed the free-flowing trio of Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho in the center of the attack, while Jordan Henderson and Emre Can started together in midfield ahead of the more defensive-minded Lucas.
Liverpool's strategy consisted of holding possession high up the pitch to keep Leicester City's formidable attack out of the match. With a slower unit, this mindset could have led to stagnant play for the hosts, but with mobile attackers the Reds managed to create opportunities against a defense pushed deep.
Origi was especially bright in the opening exchanges. He galloped into the channels at pace on multiple occasions and looked the biggest early threat to give Liverpool the lead. Unfortunately, he injured his hamstring and was replaced in the first half by Christian Benteke, who has been criticized heavily in recent weeks for his inability to mesh with the team. More on Big Ben in a bit.
Liverpool's midfield, which has served as both a strength and weakness over different parts of the last few seasons, was excellent today. Henderson is back to his old jack-of-all-trades self, while Can used his own physical gifts to befuddle the opposition.
Defensively, Dejan Lovren returned to the team to continue his fantastic run of form. Confident and capable, this Dejan is what hopeful fans envisioned a year and a half ago when he came over from Southampton. Meanwhile, Mamadou Sakho looked a bit nervy, but he wasn't tested enough for his unusually poor display to amount to anything serious. On the wings, Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno put in solid shifts with Clyne offering more in the attack than normal.
After a positive first 45, emotions were mixed in the Liverpool camp. The Reds outplayed the league leaders in the first half with loads of possession and an array of half chances, but Benteke's inclusion seemed to blunt the attack and limit the possibility of a breakthrough.
However, the powerful striker delivered in the 63rd minute. Firmino worked himself into space on the left before dinking a well-weighted ball onto Benteke's sliding right foot at the edge of the area. The contact off Benteke's boot was sweet and his shot had no chance of being saved. 1-0 Liverpool.
Anxiety ruled the final half hour as Liverpool failed to put the game away. Amid his fabulous overall performance, Henderson couldn't pick anyone out with a centering pass on a three-on-two counterattack that could have sealed the match. On the other end, Simon Mignolet momentarily fumbled a long throw-in, causing heart problems for anyone who witnessed Adam Bogdan's horror show a week ago. Finally, with the Leicester net vacated deep into stoppage time, Benteke couldn't hit the target on a break away, leading a conga line of anti-Benteke voices to emerge at the final whistle despite the overwhelmingly positive result.
And let's not understate what an important match this was. After three straight disappointments, Liverpool needed to win to have a realistic shot at keeping pace in the race for fourth. Moreover, the victory provides another reminder of what this team is capable of on its day. Leicester are a good side made to look mediocre and that's no small feat.