More than goals expected from matchwinner Benteke, says Klopp
Claudio Ranieri urges Leicester to forget Liverpool loss before Manchester City game
Christian Benteke: scored the winner but missed a sitter in stoppage time. Photograph: Peter Powell/ EPA
Liverpool 1 Leicester 0
It was all about reactions at Anfield on Saturday. Christian Benteke produced one to leave Claudio Ranieri needing one, while Jürgen Klopp’s message to the matchwinner and the first defence to nullify Leicester City since May underlined the standards he expects consistently from Liverpool. The responses could shape the course of both clubs’ seasons.
Benteke brought Liverpool a thoroughly deserved and hard-earned first win in five matches after being summoned from the bench. He replaced Divock Origi, the 20-year-old who was preferred to the €40-million-plus striker against the Premier League leaders before joining a growing band of Anfield players with a hamstring problem.
Klopp’s team controlled possession and closed Leicester’s escape routes from the start, albeit without seriously testing Kasper Schmeichel, to leave Ranieri lamenting a visiting display that was only truly threatening after Benteke’s sixth goal in Liverpool colours.
The Belgium international squandered an easier chance in stoppage time than the half-volley he converted from Roberto Firmino’s inviting cross, shooting straight at Wes Morgan when allowed to run clear on an open goal. But the finish that mattered was the reaction Klopp needed from Benteke following talks after the 3-0 reverse at Watford.
“We need his goals, but I don’t only think about him and goals,” the Liverpool manager said. “We are not a team that can play with a striker who scores a goal but is not involved for the other 89 minutes. We need the striker for the other options, too, to work for the other minutes. I know Christian can do this. We had a really good talk. He knows what he has to do. He came in and had a really good game, and decided the game. So well done!”
Benteke’s all-round contribution will assume even greater importance to Liverpool should Origi be sidelined for a long period. Daniel Sturridge took to Twitter just after the final whistle to declare himself fit and available, but Klopp made it clear he will be the judge of that.
“This is absolutely the same thing that Daniel said four weeks ago, and we let him play, and he was injured again,” said Klopp of the striker he has put on a pre-season training routine that has a week to go. “He says this, you ask him, and he says he’s good. I know he is good, but he has to train. Otherwise we always have this situation for the next 10 years and always talk about: ‘Where is Daniel Sturridge – can you play him?’ We have to try and change something. We have tried everything else, so we must try this now.”
Klopp’s injury problems continued with Martin Skrtel’s hamstring strain last week, but, in Skrtel’s absence, Dejan Lovren returned ahead of schedule from a knee problem, was shifted to the right of central defence alongside Mamadou Sakho and produced a commanding display to repel Leicester’s late rally.
“It was not easy for the two of them coming straight back in after injuries, but they did really good,” said Klopp. “The one thing I did say to them was: ‘Don’t play these passes. If you want to kill me, use a knife, don’t play these passes!’ They both played them; it’s an invitation for a counterattack. But they played good otherwise and a clean sheet is really good.”
Leicester’s reaction to their first league defeat since September, and only their second of the season, may determine how long they remain in the ascendancy. Ranieri’s team host Manchester City tomorrow and their manager found light relief in Manuel Pellegrini’s men being described as title rivals in the post-match press conference. Genuine relief, presumably, arrived with the result from St Mary’s Stadium later.
“Yes, our rivals, or so you think!” the Italian said with a laugh. “City is another fantastic test, that is all. We are dreaming, we are in good position, 38 points, fantastic. It is our dream. I want to see my players enjoy, but why were we so nervous at the beginning? I don’t know. Enjoy playing football – if we lose, then we lose, but we should just go out and play, and not be nervous. We have to recover, but we must recover in the mind. We knew we had to lose eventually, so we must forget. It is how we react mentally now.”
– Guardian Service