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Coutinho scorcher gets Liverpool back on track

Philippe Coutinho celebrates after scoring a free kick

Leicester, United Kingdom | AFP | Philippe Coutinho marked his first Premier League start of the season with a superb goal as Liverpool returned to winning ways by edging Leicester City 3-2 on Saturday.

Coutinho submitted a transfer request on the eve of the season, only for Liverpool to block his move to Barcelona, and he began the atonement process with a glorious 23rd-minute free-kick.

Further goals from Mohamed Salah and skipper Jordan Henderson helped Jurgen Klopp’s side register a first win in five attempts and avenge their mid-week loss to Leicester in the League Cup.

But victory so nearly eluded them at the King Power Stadium. Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy replied for Leicester and the latter then saw a 73rd-minute penalty parried by Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool climb to fifth place, five points below leaders Manchester City, while Leicester sit 16th, above the relegation zone on goal difference alone.

Predictably, Klopp made seven changes to the side that went out of the League Cup earlier in the week, but Coutinho retained his place.

Okazaki had shone in Leicester’s 2-0 win on Tuesday and was rewarded with a place in Craig Shakespeare’s starting line-up.

The visitors applied the early pressure, Emre Can forcing Kasper Schmeichel into a save from a narrow angle in the first minute.

It was a sign of things to come as both sides enjoyed chances in a frantic opening period.


Okazaki set Vardy away down the left flank and although Mignolet could only palm his shot across goal, Riyad Mahrez scooped the rebound over the bar.

Liverpool should have taken the lead after Can rattled the base of Schmeichel’s post with a 20-yard shot, but with the Danish goalkeeper lying helpless on the ground, Salah contrived to shoot wide.

The Egyptian made amends in the 15th minute as he got on the end of Coutinho’s cross and powered a far-post header past Schmeichel to open the scoring.

The home side came close to a reply three minutes later as Vardy chased down an attempted Mignolet clearance and the Belgian goalkeeper did well to divert Okazaki’s shot wide.

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