Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Mohamed Salah scores but Sadio Mane the main man in Liverpool's win over Newcastle

Jetro Willems gave Newcastle a surprise lead with a superb strike before a switch in positions saw Mane take centre stage aided by his teammates Salah and Firmino

It has become part of the soundtrack of match day at Anfield, a band outside the Main Stand serenading supporters about Liverpool’s “Egyptian King”. Mohamed Salah duly got his regulation goal but, increasingly, Liverpool’s Senegalese sovereign is more potent. Sadio Mane has outscored Salah in 2019. If his surname lends itself to suggestions he is the main man, so do the numbers.

Mane has now played 50 Premier League games for Liverpool at Anfield without losing. It is an extraordinary sequence but that unbeaten record was at threat when Jetro Willems put Newcastle United ahead with a superlative strike. Mane answered in kind, added a rather more predatory goal, preserved the only 100 per cent start to the Premier League campaign and extended Liverpool’s club record to 14 straight top-flight wins.

It was, though, a tale of four Liverpool forwards. Even when overshadowed, Salah still scored his 37th goal in 41 Anfield outings. Two who were not on the scoresheet had an influence, too. Roberto Firmino felt the peacemaker between warring factions when Mane was irritated Salah did not pass to him at Turf Moor. He showed his impartiality by setting up a goal for each of his striking sidekicks.

And then there was Divock Origi, who began in Firmino’s stead, with Jurgen Klopp trying to rest a workaholic who should put in a gruelling shift against Napoli and Chelsea this week. Yet Mane began as the centre-forward and only scored after switching positions with Origi. “It was my idea to start with Sadio in the centre,” Klopp admitted. “That didn’t work really well.” Liverpool looked better with Mane on the left, better still when Origi twisted his ankle, Firmino came on and immediately demonstrated his capacity to knit the team together.

There were unusual complications on the road to victory. Liverpool only trailed at Anfield for 28 minutes in last season’s Premier League. They were behind for 20 on Sunday. Willems has never even scored for Eintracht Frankfurt, his parent club. The on-loan Dutchman opened his Newcastle account in spectacular style, jinking inside Trent Alexander-Arnold before unleashing a spectacular start. “Jetro will remember it,” said his manager, Steve Bruce. “We didn’t see that coming.”

Neither did Liverpool. Initially jolted, they responded to two setbacks. Liverpool were denied a spot kick when Jamaal Lascelles dragged Joel Matip down. It seemed a case when the high bar for VAR interference was too high. “For me, it was a clear penalty,” Klopp added. Mane ensured justice was done in a different way, latching on to Andy Robertson’s pass to find the top corner. “A sensational finish from Sadio,” his manager added.

Enter Firmino. “We were relieved when he was on the bench but then he came on and made all the difference," rued Bruce. Firmino’s fervent pressing helped hassle Christian Atsu out of possession and, while the assist for Mane’s second goal came from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, he spilled the Brazilian’s through pass to afford the Senegalese a tap in. It was both a mistake and a sign of the chemistry within Liverpool’s first-choice forward line.

More came when Firmino, with a backheel flick, sent Salah sprinting away for what felt a familiar goal. As Liverpool’s full-backs raided further forward, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson were both denied by Dubravka, who kept out shots from acute angles. “Liverpool were just incredible in the second half,” Bruce added. “It was just attack after attack.”

It brought a happy ending for his Liverpool counterpart. “I started enjoying it after 25 minutes,” added Klopp. “We scored two wonderful goals in the first half and, in the second half, we played really good football.”

Updated: September 14, 2019 07:02 PM

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