Jurgen Klopp hailed ‘brilliant’ and ‘special’ Darwin Nunez after Liverpool beat Leicester City in their final Premier League game of 2022.
The Reds found themselves behind at Anfield after just four minutes as Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was allowed to run through Liverpool’s defence and slot past Alisson.
But Liverpool turned things around before half-time thanks to two fortuitous own goals from Leicester defender Wout Faes.
The first came as the Belgian defender attempted to clear Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross, the second after Nunez’s chipped effort bounced back off the post and into Faes.
Liverpool should have put the game to bed after the break – Nunez and Mohamed Salah both wasted good chances – but Leicester were unable to find an equaliser as they slipped to back-to-back defeats since the World Cup break.
Missed chances have been a reoccurring theme of Nunez’s Liverpool career to date but Klopp insists his £64m summer signing is improving and contributed to the win despite not getting on the scoresheet.
‘It was a brilliant performance from him tonight,’ Klopp said after Liverpool closed the gap to fourth-placed Tottenham to two points.
‘I know people only want to look at the stats but the [second] goal comes from him. It was a clear improvement to the last situations. He didn’t just shoot, he chipped it and it was great.
‘The chance he created for Mo as well. He took three defenders out of the game pretty much. That’s special, that’s really special. I’m really happy about that.’
Nunez has scored nine goals in 21 appearances for Liverpool since his big-money move from Benfica last summer.
Liverpool had slipped well behind Premier League leaders Arsenal before the World Cup but have boosted their top-four hopes with back-to-back wins over Aston Villa and Leicester since the return of domestic football.
Klopp added: ‘The result is very pleasing obviously but we all saw the game and it was not our best performance, we know that.
‘The start in the game – conceding from a goal-kick, I can’t remember a lot of goals we conceded from a goal-kick, to be 100 per cent honest.
‘We were just not there in that moment, we came three times too late and in the end Dewsbury-Hall is alone in front of Ali and Ali can this time not save us.
‘So, 1-0 down against a counter-attacking side with a clear idea, yeah, absolutely the opposite of what you want to have.
‘On top of that, we played further on pretty much in Leicester’s hands. We lost the balls in the wrong moment, when we were too open, so for a long time we never got a foot in this game.
‘Then we had our football moments and we forced then mistakes; scored a disallowed goal and then the two own goals happened.
‘I think especially the second goal is brilliantly done – unlucky that it hits the post and even more unlucky for Leicester obviously that it is an own goal.
‘2-1 half-time, we knew we have to improve and we did. Line was higher, more aggressive in the challenges, more connected. But still, they had their moments, they played a really good game, credit to Leicester.
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‘There’s no coincidence they obviously have quite a decent away record and you can see why. But we had massive chances in the second half where we could have finished the game off – didn’t use them and so that’s pretty much the story of the game.
‘When it’s only 2-1 against a good opponent then you have to fight through. That’s what we did and I’m pleased with that, but of course we have to play better.’
Liverpool will look to put more pressure on their top-four rivals on Monday evening when they visit Brentford, who beat West Ham 2-0 tonight to climb into the top-half of the Premier League.