Mohamed Salah’s second-half brace sealed a pulsating come-from-behind 2-1 win for Liverpool over Leicester City at Anfield.
Fourth-placed Liverpool are now unbeaten in 12 Premier League matches, a run that owes much to the brilliant Salah.
The Egypt forward now has 23 goals in all competitions this season – more than the total mustered by eight Premier League clubs – and his inspiration was needed after a shaky start.
Virgil van Dijk, who will replace Salah as Liverpool’s record signing when his £75million switch from Southampton is completed, looked on from the stands as some abject defending allowed Jamie Vardy to score for the seventh time in his past five outings against the Reds inside three minutes.
Claude Puel’s side, who remain eighth in the standings, were subjected to relentless waves of attack for their trouble and, although they held out manfully until the break, a deserved Liverpool win was sealed by Salah 14 minutes from time
Such revelry was some way away when Jurgen Klopp’s men quickly offered a strong demonstration as to why Van Dijk has been made the most expensive defender of all time.
Joel Matip’s pass out of defence sold Emre Can short and his lunging challenge did not fluster Vicente Iborra, with the former Sevilla midfielder clipping a fine pass into the path of Riyad Mahez to set up Vardy for a simple finish.
Salah spearheaded the Liverpool response, thudding a low shot wide from inside the box before being hauled in by a brilliant last-ditch challenge from Leicester centre-back Harry Maguire.
Any time Leicester’s pacey attack of Vardy, Mahrez and Demarai Gray were allowed a sight of Liverpool’s backline the hosts looked vulnerable. The thrilling solution to this for Klopp’s team was to select all-out attack as the best means of defence.
Sadio Mane was ruled offside when he converted a left-wing Salah cross at the back post, while Liverpool’s top scorer floated a chip wide on the angle on another foray into the Leicester area after 20 minutes.
City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel could only shovel a low drive from Roberto Firmino back into his own box, where defender Daniel Amartey unconvincingly cleared behind.
From another corner, in the 37th minute, Schmeichel failed to gather and Matip saw his resulting shot blocked by cluster of blue shirts.
Any Liverpool goal promised to be something to savour and so it proved when Salah restored parity seven minutes into the second half
Can fired a pass to Mane, who spotted his team-mates run and spun a wonderful backheel into Salah’s path. Once in the area, the ex-Roma man negotiated a pair of challenges and drilled home a low finish.
Leicester found themselves threatened with the second-half misery Swansea City endured at this ground on Boxing Day and Salah lifted an effort onto the roof of the net following a sumptuous Philippe Coutinho throughball.
Mane was denied by the offside flag for the second time in the 66th minute, having scampered just beyond Amartey in anticipation of Salah’s pass.
At the other end, a Christian Fuchs’ long throw caused consternation and Wilfred Ndidi rifled a sweet left-footed strike wide when Liverpool failed to effectively clear. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was rooted to the spot.
Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot was too close to Schmeichel before the winner arrived in the 76th minute.
It came from more slick Liverpool interplay, with James Milner accepting a pass from Firmino to apply the deft flick on that occasion, leaving Salah to turn the tireless Maguire and shoot unerringly past a helpless Schmeichel