Coutinho stun­ner gives Liver­pool Hong Kong win

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

HONG KONG: A mo­ment of Philippe Coutinho magic lifted Liver­pool to a 2-1 pre­sea­son vic­tory over Le­ices­ter City in the fi­nal of the Pre­mier League Asia Tro­phy yes­ter­day. With Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp re­ject­ing a big-money of­fer from Barcelona for Coutinho ear­lier this week, the mer­cu­rial Brazil­ian un­der­lined his im­por­tant to the Reds with a flash of in­di­vid­ual bril­liance in Hong Kong. The 25-year-old picked the ball up on the left of the area on the stroke of half­time, jinked his way in­side and let fly with a su­perb right-foot strike that proved to be the game-win­ner.

“Ev­ery­body knows that Phil Coutinho is a key player for us,” Klopp told re­porters. “He loves the club, he loves the city-he is a fan­tas­tic foot­baller. If he is able to play like tonight, in a very dif­fi­cult mo­ment of the pre­sea­son af­ter all the (train­ing) ses­sions, that shows his big po­ten­tial.” Coutinho had ear­lier played the role of provider for new sign­ing Mo­hamed Salah, dink­ing the ball on to the Egyp­tian’s head to can­cel out Is­lam Sli­mani’s 12th-minute nod­ded opener.

Klopp was in­volved in a heated ex­change with ref­eree Bobby Madley in the first half, the Ger­man re­veal­ing his anger had been sparked by some close at­ten­tion Coutinho was re­ceiv­ing from the Le­ices­ter de­fend­ers. “These play­ers make the dif­fer­ence. These play­ers bring peo­ple to the sta­dium,” said Klopp. “That’s why have to look af­ter them a lit­tle bit.” Salah, mean­while, again demon­strated that the club record $45 mil­lion Klopp paid Roma for his ser­vices looks money well spent. His pace adding an­other di­men­sion to Liver­pool’s at­tack, the for­mer Chelsea winger gave Le­ices­ter’s Chris­tian Fuchs a tor­rid time un­til he was sub­sti­tuted on 65 min­utes.

Klopp, whose side beat Crys­tal Palace 2-0 in mid­week to reach the fi­nal, is still hop­ing to bring in Leipzig mid­fielder Nabi Keita, with Liver­pool set to re­turn with a fi­nal of­fer of around $97 mil­lion for the Guinea in­ter­na­tional. For now, it was a case of job done for Liver­pool in the Far East. “It’s re­ally pleas­ing,” said Klopp. “We’ve played two hard games in very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances against very good op­po­nents. “Win­ning both games is a big thing. The boys did well. “Yes we con­ceded a goal. But the line-up was my idea and it was clear that not ev­ery­thing in de­fence would work. We have big of­fen­sive po­ten­tial but ob­vi­ously we need to learn how to de­fend to­gether.” Palace won the third­place play­off ear­lier on Satur­day, see­ing off West Brom 2-0 in a testy af­fair that saw tem­pers flare as the play­ers en­tered the tun­nel at half­time.

The match was set­tled by Luka Milivo­je­vic’s sweetly struck free kick on 11 min­utes and a de­flected Bakary Sako shot that found the net with three min­utes left in the first half.

— AP

HONG KONG: Liver­pool FC play­ers cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning the fi­nal match against Le­ices­ter City FC at the Pre­mier League Asia Tro­phy soc­cer tour­na­ment in Hong Kong, yes­ter­day.

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