Wijnaldum: Liverpool stars would’ve been happy for Coutinho to get dream Barca move

Liverpool’s players were torn over the Philippe Coutinho summer transfer saga, Georginio Wijnaldum has admitted.

The Brazilian forward made no secret of his desire to head to Barcelona once interest was shown, with the 25-year-old going as far as handing in a transfer request.

Sturridge 7/2 FGS with dabblebet

He was, however, to be blocked from leaving Anfield, with Liverpool snubbing several big-money offers.

“On one side we would have been happy for him if he could have gone as he really wanted to make the move, but on the other side as team-mates you want him to stay because you know with Phil because we’ll be better, the Netherlands international told the Liverpool Echo.

“There were two thoughts in your head. You can see it from both sides. Someone was going to be disappointed at the end of the transfer window and it was Phil.”

Wijnaldum concedes it was a tricky time for everyone involved, with the Reds wanting the best for a top talent but also eager to ensure that he was not allowed to slip the net.

“It was difficult,” he said. “Phil is a really good person and we understood why he wanted to make the move.

“He’s someone who has always given everything for Liverpool. He has done a great job fighting for Liverpool.”

Georginio Wijnaldum Phillpe Coutinho difficult

Having been forced to stay put, Coutinho has set about putting his Barca disappointment to the back of his mind.

He was eased back into the Reds fold by Jurgen Klopp and has slowly recaptured his confidence and form.

Two goals have been netted in his last two outings, against Leicester and Spartak Moscow, with Wijnaldum quick to highlight the value of his match-winning qualities.

He added: “He’s an important player who can win games for us and make the team better.

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“It was normal that the club tried so hard to keep him.

“You never know what will happen in the future. But Phil is a good person and no matter how long he’s here, I know he will always give everything for Liverpool. We’re so happy that he stayed.”

While Barca could rekindle their interest in January, for now, the focus for Liverpool and Coutinho is a Premier League clash with Newcastle on Sunday, which sees them reunited with former boss Rafa Benitez.

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10 2017

Fantasy Football: Defenders dominate Goal’s Premier League Team of the Week

This was a very good week for defenders, with four of them scoring goals and eight top-flight teams earning clean sheets. This is obviously reflected in our Team of the Week, which includes five defenders, but it also seems to be a trend this season on the whole with defensive players taking eight of the top 15 points earners in the Goal game.

Considering this trend, it may be time to rethink your team’s make up. In the interim though, here are the 11 best Fantasy players from the last week of Premier League before international football takes centre stage once more.

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GK: Kasper Schmeichel – Leicester City – 1 Game, 4 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 9 Points

DF: Ben Davies – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 17 Points

The Wales international is currently the best Fantasy option on one of the best defences in the league. He currently boasts the most chances created of any defender in England (16) and is actually five ahead of Aaron Cresswell, who sits second in that statistic. There are reports that Danny Rose is set to return to first team training soon, but Davies could well hold onto his job even when Rose is fully fit.

Nacho Monreal Arsenal Premier League

DF: Nacho Monreal – Arsenal – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

Don’t look now but Arsenal have now kept four clean sheets in a row. Monreal has been pushed inside and now operates as a centre back in a three man defence which negates a lot of his Fantasy value, but through seven weeks only three players ahead of him in points are less expensive and all of them are owned by more managers.

DF: Kieran Trippier – Tottenham – 1 Game, 2 Assists, 1 Clean Sheet = 13 Points

DF: Ashley Young – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DF: Hector Bellerin – Arsenal – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

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MF: Marouane Fellaini – Manchester United – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

MF: Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

Coutinho is currently third in goals scored for Liverpool… despite starting just three matches this season. With Mkhitaryan and Eriksen both drawing blanks in two of their last three matches a lot of heads will start turning the Brazilian’s way but, with two consecutive matches against top three defences coming up, it’s probably best to hold off until match week 10.

MF: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

Harry Kane Tottenham

FWD: Harry Kane – Tottenham – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points

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After a barren August, again, Kane has come back firing with a vengeance. He has three braces in the last four weeks and made our Team of the Week each time he did it. Tottenham have an incredibly rough schedule on the horizon facing Liverpool and Manchester United in the league, plus Real Madrid twice in the Champions League, but anyone that bets against Kane does so at their own peril.

FWD: Richarlison – Watford – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 10 Points

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10 2017

Fantasy Football: Premier League stars dominate Champions League Team of the Week once more

The Premier League teams have continued to have success abroad with four of their five entrants winning their Champions League matches this week. They are, therefore, well represented in the Team of the Week alongside stars from PSG and, surprisingly, Basel after their thumping victory. The reigning Swiss champions have not one, but two representatives this week!

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GK: Alphonse Areola – PSG – 1 Game, 7 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DEF: Dani Alves – PSG – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

Alves was the highest scoring defender in the Goal Champions League game last season, and is picking up right where he left off. PSG impressively held German giants Bayern Munich goalless and, stands an excellent chance of picking up loads more points in their next match against Anderlecht who have yet to score a Champions League goal.

Dani Alves PSG Paris Saint-Germain

DEF: Michael Lang – Basel – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

DEF: Toby Alderweireld – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DEF: Kieran Trippier – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

Against APOEL, Trippier did what he does best: cross the ball. He was shunted out on the left for the better part of an hour and is in danger of losing his spot to newcomer Serge Aurier and, with Real Madrid on the horizon for the next two rounds, it’s probably best to avoid the english right back.

MID: Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

The Armenia international had been lighting up the Premier League this season with five goals in just six matches, and was, perhaps unsurprisingly, just as dangerous against a disappointing CSKA team. We always knew this was a kind draw and, considering the lack of threats to his place, Mkhitaryan is a must-start against a Benfica side who have already conceded seven goals in the group.

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MID: Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

MID: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

FOR: Dimitri Oberlin – Basel – 1 Game, 2 Goals, 2 Assists = 18 Points

Well this came out of nowhere. Not just in the fact that most people aren’t intimately knowledgeable of the Swiss league, but that Oberlin matched his two domestic goals with two of the Champions League variety in 178 fewer minutes. It’s difficult to make too many bold projections for the Basel forward off the back of just one game but, at just £5.8m, he could be a steal for those brave enough to roster him.

Harry Kane Tottenham

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FOR: Harry Kane – Tottenham – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

FOR: Wissam Ben Yedder – Sevilla – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

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09 2017

Coutinho vows to put Barcelona transfer saga behind him

Philippe Coutinho has insisted that the transfer wranglings this summer between him, Liverpool and Barcelona are now in the past as he focuses on excelling at Anfield. 

The Brazil playmaker found himself in the middle of a tug-of-war, with Barca making multiple bids for his services that were turned down flat by the Reds. 

Coutinho 6/1 to score 1st vs. Newcastle

A series of ambiguous comments on his future suggested that Coutinho had hoped for a move to Camp Nou, and he missed the start of the season with a succession of fitness niggles. 

Now back in the Reds first team, however, and having scored in his last two outings, the player believes he is ready to move on from the drawn-out saga.

“I’m calm. It’s all passed by. I’m here to defend the colours — to give my maximum,” he said after scoring during Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Spartak Moscow on Tuesday, which leaves Jurgen Klopp’s men with just two points from their opening two Champions League games. 

“It wasn’t really the result we wanted, but we have to keep working and there are more games, another four games to come.”

Coutinho has added motivation for wanting a strong season at Anfield this term. 

Brazil have already clinched qualification for the World Cup in Russia next June, and places in Tite’s starting line-up look set to be fiercely fought over as the coach enjoys a rich pool of talent in the creative positions. 

“I hope to get called up,” he said of his chances of making the cut for Russia 2018.

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“With every call-up I want to develop and for us develop as a team in order to be successful.” 

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09 2017

Spartak Moscow 1 Liverpool 1: Klopp’s men held again

Liverpool settled for a second successive Champions League draw to kick off their campaign as their clash with Spartak Moscow finished 1-1.

Philippe Coutinho’s brilliance was not enough to secure Liverpool’s first Champions League win since 2014 as Spartak Moscow earned a 1-1 draw.

Jurgen Klopp’s side dominated for much of Tuesday’s Group E contest at the Otkrytiye Arena, but had to settle for the point earned by Coutinho cancelling out Fernando’s effort.

Liverpool entered the fixture with added urgency following a disappointing home draw against Sevilla to open their campaign.

But they got off to a nightmare start as Fernando put the limited hosts ahead with a curling free-kick.

The visitors showed great resolve over the remainder of the first half and entered the break level thanks to Coutinho’s second goal in as many games.

Yet Spartak tightened up in the second period and Liverpool, back in the competition for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign, failed to find a winner.

Klopp’s team selection suggested he felt three points were a necessity, with an attacking line-up featuring a front four of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Coutinho.

For all those were expected to post the biggest threat, young full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was first to go close when volleying just wide following a one-two with Salah.
 
The visitors stepped on the gas thereafter as Mane sent in a cross for Firmino, whose fine header was parried away by Artyom Rebrov.
 
Despite their dominance, Klopp’s men fell behind midway through the half through a superb free-kick from Fernando.
 
The midfielder was afforded his chance when slack play from Emre Can preceded a rash challenge from Coutinho.
 
And he made Liverpool pay, curling home a delicious 20-yard effort – although Loris Karius, selected ahead of Simon Mignolet, will feel he should have done better.
 
They were behind for just seven minutes, though, as Coutinho atoned for his error by curling home following a fine one-two with Mane.


Liverpool could have gone ahead just before the break, only for a thrilling four-on-two counter-attack to be thwarted by Mane drifting offside.

Picking up where they left off, Klopp’s team threatened quickly after the break when the lively Coutinho’s free-kick forced Rebrov into action.

But that proved the only real chance during the opening exchanges of the half as Spartak largely nullified their opponents’ threat.

They were dealt a blow in the 68th minute, however, as Rebrov was forced off after colliding with Salah.

Yet his departure did not noticeably alter the pattern of the game, with Klopp sending on Daniel Sturridge and Georginio Wijnaldum in search of inspiration.

Alexander-Arnold continued to look as likely as anybody, capping another fine run by hammering narrowly over.

Even better openings fell Sturridge’s way before the end, but the England man failed to control when six yards out and volleyed over from similar range soon after.

And the final confirmation it would not be Liverpool’s night came six minutes into injury time when Rebrov’s replacement, Alexander Selikhov, made a sublime one-handed save to keep out Salah’s bullet header.

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09 2017

Fantasy Football: Alvaro Morata is the star performer in the latest Team of the Week

This week was largely a return of the stars. After a few surprise packages in recent weeks, the past few days were a reminder that the traditional top six are so highly regarded for a reason. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham accounted for an impressive 10 of a possible 11 spots in the latest Team of the Week.

Goal-Fantasy-Football-registertowinGK: Mat Ryan – Brighton – 1 Game, 5 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 9 Points

DF: Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea – 1 Game, 2 Assists, 1 Clean Sheets = 13 Points

He and Alvaro Morata seem to have started out on about the best foot possible. Azpilicueta is currently third in assists in the league with four, and every single one of them has gone to his teammate and countryman, including two on Saturday. Four assists on just six chances created is not very sustainable, but the 28-year-old should still finish top five at his position come the end of the season.

DF: Marcos Alonso – Chelsea – 1 Game, 1 Clean Sheet = 7 Points

DF: Sead Kolasinac – Arsenal – 1 Game, 1 Clean Sheet = 7 Points

Sead Kolasinac Arsenal

MF: Raheem Sterling – Man City – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

Pep Guardiola’s constant rotation is a thorn in the side of all Fantasy owners but basically whoever wears sky blue and starts in attack ends up on this list. This week it’s Sterling who netted twice, albeit in a less than stellar overall performance. Usually a good Fantasy day is all that matters, but the last thing you want is Sterling giving Pep any possible reason to rotate him out of Premier League starts.

MF: Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

The prodigal son returns. After angling for a move to Barcelona, the Brazil international got his first start of the season and only went and notched an assist and a beautiful free kick goal. He’s always been a bit of a hot and cold Fantasy player but it may be worth waiting to buy him until the Manchester United and Tottenham matches are in the rear-view mirror.

MF: Leroy Sane – Man City – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 2 Assists = 14 Points

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MF: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

FWD: Alvaro Morata – Chelsea – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

Right as everyone was tripping over themselves to stack Aguero, Lukaku, and Kanein their teams, Morata goes out and scores a hat-trick. With the aforementioned link up with Azpilicueta and Eden Hazard set to return to the fold, even more chances should start flowing the Spaniard’s way.

Harry Kane Tottenham 2017

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FWD: Harry Kane – Tottenham – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points

FWD: Alexandre Lacazette – Arsenal – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points

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09 2017

Klopp considers starting ‘artists’ against Spartak

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is considering starting all of his “artists” in his side’s Champions League clash against Spartak Moscow.

With Philippe Coutinho back and Sadio Mane available, Klopp may opt to start the duo alongside Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in Russia on Tuesday.

Liverpool 7/1 to beat Spartak 2-0

Injuries and suspensions have prevented the quartet from starting together, but Klopp said he would consider it.

“The balance has to be right. We are an offensive-orientated team, but this is about Champions League football,” the German told UK newspapers.

“We need results. In the right moments, you need to be able to do the right things. It is not about being spectacular, it is about being good, and being clinical and having perfect timing and perfect protection.

“We cannot just bring all the artists, but if it fits together we will do it.

“It is good to have them all, it is cool everyone is in the game, but that doesn’t mean anything. I don’t believe in names. I believe in performances. They all have to fit together and that is what we have to try.”

While Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold appear set to be in the XI in the Group E clash, one man certain to start is Loris Karius.

The goalkeeper is desperate to make the most of his opportunity after Klopp confirmed he would start.

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“Of course I’m very excited to play in this competition, the Champions League,” the 24-year-old Karius told the club’s website.

“It’s my first season in the Champions League, so on top of that I see it as a big chance to perform well and show myself to the manager, tell him I’m ready for whatever.

“If you need me in the Premier League I’ll be there, so it’s a chance for me.”

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09 2017

Liverpool must ‘pray’ they can keep Coutinho – Gerrard

Steven Gerrard believes it will take a stroke of divine intervention for Philippe Coutinho to not leave Liverpool for Barcelona.

The attacker was involved in a summer tag-of-war that saw him go AWOL from the Reds’ squad towards the end of the transfer window in a bid to force a deal through.

Liverpool 20/1 to win Champions League

Jurgen Klopp’s side saw off the danger, but Gerrard believes there is only so long they can keep hold of the Brazil international.

Asked on BT Sport how Liverpool can keep him at the club, the club legend replied: Pray! He’s South American, his dream is to go to Barcelona. 

“I think the key in this situation is do Barcelona come back? Or are they upset that he hasn’t come? 

“Liverpool will want to keep him for a long, long time, there’s no doubt about that. They love him.”

Coutinho, 25, was vital as Liverpool defeated Leicester 3-2 on Saturday, and Gerrard was happy to sing the player’s praises.

“He produces moments of genius and he’s a world class footballer.

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“Barcelona don’t come for you for that amount of money unless you’re world class. 

“Liverpool need to try and keep hold of him for as long as possible because with him in the team, when Sadio Mane comes back, we know Liverpool will score heavily and they will be one of the most exciting teams in the league.”

The Reds are sixth in the standings, five points behind leaders Manchester City after six games.

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09 2017

‘He produces magical things’ – Henderson thrilled with Coutinho’s impact

Jordan Henderson hailed the “brilliant” Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian played a starring in role in Liverpool’s thrilling 3-2 Premier League win at Leicester City.

Coutinho set up Mohamed Salah for the opener and then scored a stunning free-kick, his first goal for the Reds since they snubbed Barcelona’s advances for the forward in the transfer window.

Liverpool 20/1 to win Premier League

And Liverpool captain Henderson – whose side held off a Foxes fightback as Jamie Vardy had a late penalty saved – believes the 25-year-old showed why it was so vital to retain his services.

“He’s a fantastic player, he produces magical things at crucial times in the game,” Henderson told BT Sport . “You see that [in this game].

“He was brilliant in midweek and he’s been brilliant since he has come back in. Hopefully he can keep going for the rest of this season.”

Henderson acknowledged there is still room for improvement for Liverpool, who ended a four-match winless run in all competitions.

“We dug in right until the end, showed great character to see the game out,” he said. “I think we can do better, but it is still an improvement.

“I felt like we defended well for the majority of the game – obviously Simon [Mignolet] made a brilliant save from the penalty.

“We played some brilliant stuff, especially in the first half, and we were two goals up, which we deserved. Overall, we’ll be delighted with the result in the end as well as the performance.”

Simon Mignolet conceded and then saved Vardy’s spot-kick, but he was more concerned with the team’s fortunes than his personal achievements.

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“The main thing is that we win the game. Sometimes even when you save a penalty, it doesn’t happen,” he said. “The most important thing is that the lads fought well.

“They deserved three points and that’s the most important thing.”

He added, when asked of his excellent penalty record: “I count points. That’s far more important. The team is always the important one.”

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09 2017

Priceless Coutinho covers up Liverpool’s defensive cracks

Even before the ball had evaded Kasper Schmeichel and curled neatly and typically into the corner, the away end at the King Power Stadium filled the ground with his name.

And so, on the day where it leaked that Barcelona had allegedly guaranteed Philippe Coutinho €115 million over five years had he transfered to them this summer, the Brazil international demonstrated why Liverpool rebuffed the Catalans, telling them he was priceless.

Liverpool 12/1 to beat Newcaste 3-1

Philippe Coutinho Liverpool Leicester

“No sum will lead us to reverse our decision,” was sporting director Michael Edwards’ emailed response to Oscar Grau, the chairman of Barca’s board of management.

Why?

On 22 minutes, Wilfred Ndidi was booked for slicing down Alberto Moreno 25 yards from goal and as referee Anthony Taylor pushed the wall back for the free-kick and the travelling contingent voiced their olé olés, the playmaker picked his spot and visualised his strike.

Coutinho took a little run up, belting a beautiful curler over the wall and into the bottom left corner. He spun away, arms outstretched encouraging more noise from the Liverpool supporters as he screamed in celebration and relief.

Since coming off the bench in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Sevilla – the 25-year-old’s first competitive appearance for the club this season as he nursed a back injury and agitated for a move to Camp Nou – Jurgen Klopp has been seeking to restore the attacker’s match sharpness.

Philippe Coutinho Liverpool Leicester

On Tuesday night, against the same opponents on the same ground, Coutinho had looked nearly there – so much so that Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare admitted his withdrawal at half-time was soothing.

Four days later, in his third game of the week, he was again the difference – and decisive to Liverpool ending a four-match winless run.

“We think we did it right that we gave him 45 minutes in midweek so he could get more rhythm and it wouldn’t be too intense,” Klopp said.

“It was not too good for the game in midweek to take him off to be honest, but it was perfect for today. He can be happy with his performance and I’m very happy with it.”

By the time Schmeichel picked his free-kick out the back of the net, Coutinho had already delivered a stellar inswinging cross beyond the far post from just outside the area for Mohamed Salah.

HD Salah Coutinho Liverpool celebrate

The Egyptian fooled Ben Chilwell and squeezed a header in from a tight angle having put a rebound wide minutes before as Emre Can struck the post.

The No.10 and the speedster, who combined so wonderfully in pre-season, were at it again and despite starting aggressively, Leicester found themselves having to chase the game.

As has been the case against the Merseysiders, though, if you apply even a little bit of pressure, they will conspire against themselves at the back.

Shinji Okazaki thought he had reduced the deficit on 40 minutes, but it was ruled out as Harry Maguire was offside from the free-kick as he flicked on.

With half-time approaching and Liverpool 2-0 up, Roberto Firmino wasted a chance to add to their advantage by driving a first-time shot with his left just wide.

And that bit of profligacy – a mark of the side since the international break – would be regretted as Leicester did get on the scoreboard.

Simon Mignolet excellently denied Jamie Vardy, but as he came to clear the resulting corner, Okazaki impeded the goalkeeper by holding onto his arm and then reacted quickest when the ball dropped to tap it in.

Simon Mignolet Liverpool v Leicester

Liverpool were furious with the officiating throughout that entire stanza of play as they headed into the interval.

In the second half, both sides had periods of joy in what so often descended into utter chaos. Jordan Henderson thought he killed the game off on 68 minutes after stealing possession and setting Liverpool on the break through Coutinho, who fed Daniel Sturridge.

The England striker drove the ball on and supplied the Reds captain, who made it 3-1. Klopp fist-pumped wildly on the touchline, but would soon fly into fury.

Just a minute later, Marc Albrighton beat Joe Gomez down the left and crossed beyond the far post to Demarai Gray. He controlled and sent a stunning effort Mignolet’s way, which the Belgian thwarted, but Vardy was left unmarked to head into an empty net.

The madness was not over yet as the forward won a penalty shortly afterwards as the keeper clattered into him. Mignolet has several weaknesses, but saving from the spot is not one of them as he demonstrated again – keeping out more kicks than any other gloveman in the Premier League since his move to Liverpool in 2013.

Jamie Vardy Leicester City 2017

A shout for an Emre Can handball was waved away as Taylor’s decision-making was flawed in the fixture.

It was a far from perfect showing from the visitors, too, but Klopp believes they are navigating the right course. 

“We play good football in general. We are in a good way,” he said. “We do a lot of things that you do when you’ve worked a little bit longer together. Yes, we still have issues. Yes, we lose challenges.

“Yes, because of the defence discussions it doesn’t help a lot if you make a mistake in defence, but it still will happen with all different line-ups, we will concede goals in the future.

“A little bit too much today, maybe one for sure too much and one goal you can concede at Leicester. We could have defended better before they could cross around the second goal, that’s the 100 per cent truth.

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“In modern football that’s maybe rare, I’m not sure, but we want to be successful together. That means we always feel bad together when it’s not that good. We’ve felt quite average the last few days, and today much better.”

A large part of that is owed to Coutinho contrusting the foundation for a much-needed 3-2 victory.

Liverpool could not contemplate losing their stardust for this season, and anyone who questioned why they didn’t cash in on a player Henderson summed up as “fantastic, who produces magical things at crucial times” received a very clear answer on Saturday evening.

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09 2017