(Reuters) - If anyone was still wondering why Liverpool spurned Barcelona’s bids for Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, his part in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Leicester City provided the answer.
Almost everybody in the stadium, including Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel, knew what was likely to happen next as Coutinho stepped up to place the ball carefully for a freekick 25 metres out midway through the first half.
Then came a quick look up, a pinpoint shot and the familiar ripple inside the post before the keeper arrived a micro-second too late.
It was Coutinho’s 16th Premier League goal from outside the area and demonstrated why he is priceless to Liverpool.
Eight minutes earlier Coutinho had delivered an equally precise curling cross to Mo Salah at the far post for the visitors’ opener.
In the absence of the suspended Sadio Mane, Coutinho was back as part of a front three, where he performed best last season, and Leicester never came to terms with his trickery or vision.
The Brazilian was deservedly named man of the match.
Manager Juergen Klopp was delighted with the way his side clung on, with Simon Mignolet saving a late penalty to secure Liverpool’s victory at a ground where they have struggled in recent years.
“I loved how we fought for the result. It could have been more clear but after a few games without a win you have to fight back,” Klopp said.
“I really think in a moment like this so many things are positive. The three points are the proof for the public that we are still here, everything is good. Let’s make the next step together.”
That seemed a belated acknowledgment that the pressure on him has been building up since the 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City a fortnight ago and the underwhelming 1-1 draw with Burnley last weekend.
Among the pluses on Saturday was the second-half performance of Daniel Sturridge, who came on for Roberto Firmino and played a major part in Jordan Henderson’s goal.
Despite conceding two goals, and Mignolet’s mistimed kick at Jamie Vardy for the penalty, Liverpool’s defence looked more effective than usual and the team now make the trek to Spartak Moscow for Tuesday’s Champions League Group E game hoping they have turned a corner.
Whether they would have done so without Coutinho pushing them is another matter.
Editing by Clare Fallon