When a team has a calendar year like Liverpool has, the end of December can be nothing but a relief. With one game left of 2015, Liverpool look to hit the new year running. A decent 1-0 victory today over the league leaders, Leicester City, is a pretty good start. Not only did Liverpool get a much-needed victory, they also did it while keeping the seemingly unstoppable duo of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy at bay and being the first team this season to deny Leicester a goal.
The performance itself wasn't spectacular: Mamadou Sakho still looks as though he's working up to full fitness and playing out of necessity, thanks to Martin Skrtel's injury. And while Liverpool created a load of half-chances, they seemed hard-pressed to put any of them away. Things got worse in the first half when Divock Origi, who had been looking quite good for them, went off injured to be replaced by Christian Benteke. However, despite several frustrating missed attempts, Benteke put the ball in the back of the net when it counted, and won the game for Liverpool.
Speaking afterwards, manager Jürgen Klopp was enthusiastic about the team's victory, saying:
"It was deserved, I think. We made a game which we should make in these circumstances, against this opponent, with the wind and the pressing of the opponent, and all these things.
"We played too complicated in Watford last week, we played how we in Germany say ‘in their cards’ – how they wanted us to play. Today we did much better.
"I was really pleased with what we did in the first half-hour and then we had to change. It was really difficult for Christian to come in; he didn’t warm up until then really and had to start immediately. It was difficult. It was a little bit more open.
"At half-time, we knew if we stayed concentrated we would get our chances because the players looked good and it was not too intensive for us in the first half, so we could do more in the second half.
"We made this one goal and after all the set-plays of Leicester, especially the throw-ins of Christian Fuchs, it was difficult and close and not easy to defend. But we did it with a lot of patience and that’s good, so we deserved the three points."
Standing out amongst the defense today was Dejan Lovren, a player who deserves his fair dues after being put through the wringer by the Liverpool faithful since his arrival, thanks to a series of terrible performances. He looked impressive today, and that was necessary, since Sakho was not at 100%. With Skrtel out until February, Lovren's performance will make Liverpool fans breathe a bit easier. They're still woefully without depth in the back and could desperately use some reinforcements in the January transfer window, but right now Lovren's good form is reason to be happy.
Forward is another position where Liverpool could stand to bring in some reinforcements, thanks to constant injuries to those players. The jinx has struck again, and this time Origi was the latest striker to go off injured. Regarding the young Belgian's inclusion in the starting line up, Klopp said:
"He did really well in the last week in training but for today, we decided on this starting line-up because of the things you saw from Divock in the first half an hour.
"We needed his speed today. Christian is a fast player, but Divock is a little bit more a player for these runs, these ways and what we needed behind the last line of the opponent. He did really well for us, so that was the decision.
"Christian came in and it was not easy in the first 10 minutes, but in the second half it was much better – he fought really intensively and worked hard for the team. He made his goal.
"I don’t know too many strikers who always get situations like this and he did perfectly in the situation. He had another chance close to the final whistle, but we have to see."
And then, inevitably, about Origi's first half injury, the German groused:
"I hope it’s not too serious, we will see. They spoke about a little cramp.
"You have been here longer than me; I didn’t know the word before I came to England, but ‘hamstring’ is the worst word of the year for me. It’s always hamstring, hamstring, hamstring. That’s the intensity of the game and the fixtures.
"We will see. I hope it’s not too serious. We have the next game in three days and six days the next, nine days the next – I hope he can play in one of these games."
Skrtel, Rossiter, Sturridge...
Hamstring, indeed, Jürgen. Hamstring, indeed.