Jamie Vardy saw a late penalty saved by Simon Mignolet as Liverpool held off an inspired Leicester City comeback to return to winning ways in the Premier League at the King Power on Saturday night.
Two goals inside the opening half an hour had given Liverpool a commanding lead, with Philippe Coutinho firing in a brilliant free-kick, but Shinji Okazaki gave the hosts hope just before the break.
Jordan Henderson looked to have wrapped it up for the visitors when he added a third on the counter but Leicester hit straight back, with Vardy popping up for his sixth in four against the Reds.
The England striker then had the chance to level things up from the spot but he was brilliantly denied by Mignolet and despite intense late pressure Liverpool held out for a much-needed victory.
6 – Vardy in the thick of the action
Whilst nothing is ever certain in football, one thing that could have been predicted before the first whistle on Saturday was that Leicester forward Jamie Vardy would be heavily involved in the action.
The England international arrived at the King Power in fine form against Jurgen Klopp’s side, finding the back of the net in the last three matches, including his sublime half-volley in the 2015-16 season.
And he took his goal-scoring tally to six goals in four matches when he was in the right place at the right time in the second-half to nod into an empty net, giving his side hope of a surprise comeback.
Vardy was on top form from the word go on Saturday evening, running Liverpool’s centre-back pairing of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren ragged with his rapid acceleration in-behind the back-line.
It was his header that forced a corner for Leicester’s opener but, ultimately, he’ll remember the match for spurning the opportunity to salvage a deserved point when his late penalty was saved.
7 – Mignolet to the rescue
But as much as Vardy would have had a sleepless night after missing the chance to earn his side a point, it was the brilliance of Simon Mignolet – not something heard that often – that denied him.
The Belgian goalkeeper went from zero to hero in the space of just 90 seconds as, after initially fouling Vardy on the edge of the area, he stood his ground to parry his fierce penalty firmly away.
He’d clearly done his research on the Leicester striker in recent weeks, with Vardy going for power straight down the middle against both Chelsea and Huddersfield, and he deserves the credit for that.
It continues his exceptional penalty record since arriving in the Premier League, and Mignolet has now saved an astonishing seven of the 15 penalties that he’s faced – and now five of his last eight.
10 – Liverpool’s defensive issues remain prominent
Earning three points on Saturday evening may have papered over the cracks for a short period but the over-riding talking point is that Liverpool still look incredibly fragile at the back after six matches.
Conceding twice at the King Power means that they’ve now conceded ten times in their three away games so far this season – and 11 overall – and only three top-flight sides have let in more until now.
Once again they didn’t help themselves, with Joel Matip giving away a needless foul in the build-up to Shinji Okazaki’s goal, whilst the centre-back pairing of Matip and Lovren struggled with Vardy’s pace.
If they are to finish in the top-four of the Premier League, let alone try to sustain a title challenge into the new year and beyond, then something needs to change fast and the goals need to dry up.
16 – Coutinho underlines his importance
Whilst Liverpool’s woes at one end of the pitch reared their ugly head again, it was down at the other end that man-of-the-match Philippe Coutinho outlined just how critical he is to Jurgen Klopp.
It was only his second Premier League start of the season following his drawn-out summer transfer saga but he showed just why Liverpool’s owners were so insistent on repelling Barcelona’s advances.
Within 22 first-half minutes he had supplied a delightful cross for Mohamed Salah to open the scoring before turning goal-scorer himself, whipping an unstoppable free-kick right in the corner.
His effort took his tally to 16 goals outside of the box since his Premier League debut, an amount unmatched by anyone else, and the 25-year-old has now scored four free-kicks since August 2015.
His influence didn’t stop at that though, with the Brazilian having five shots on goal, making five crosses and completing five dribbles in an all-round performance full of creativity and attacking flair.
In the absence of Sadio Mane, who was serving the final game of his three-match suspension, Liverpool needed someone to step up and Coutinho did just that to inspire a much-needed victory.