Magnificent Mane and Milner mask Salah’s dry spell as Liverpool go top again
- September 23, 2019
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The Senegalese star capped a great week by inspiring Liverpool to a crucial win at Fulham after an Alisson blunder threatened to ruin the afternoon
Liverpool had been here before.
Craven Cottage. The ball on the penalty spot. Nerves frayed in the away end, the Reds’ title bid under threat.
James Milner’s intervention here may not have been as late as Steven Gerrard’s five years ago, but it could be the most important he’s made in a red shirt. It gave Liverpool a victory they looked to have thrown
But if Milner was the match-winner, it was
He’s the most softly-spoken member of the Liverpool dressing room, but there’s nothing quiet about Sadio Mane right now.
The Senegal star is the Reds’ form player, and his hot streak continued here.
His first-half strike set Liverpool on their way, and it was he who won the penalty from which Milner struck the decisive blow after Ryan Babel, the former Reds striker, had nicked an equaliser for Fulham, benefiting from a catalogue of errors from Milner, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker.
At that point, it looked like the dream was slipping away, Liverpool careless and aimless. “The equaliser, we begged for it a little bit,” Klopp said afterwards. “We made it hard for ourselves,” added Van Dijk, who admitted he “should have done better” with the header which allowed Babel to profit.
Then, nine minutes from time, came a moment of sharpness from Mane, a moment of madness from Rico. The Fulham goalkeeper’s senseless grab in the area cost his side dear. Manchester City too. Milner, the former City man, kept his nerve from the spot, as he usually does. “That’s impact, eh?” smiled Klopp. “Without Milly it is probably 1-0!”
Mane’s run of form, meanwhile, is well-timed. While Liverpool’s No.11, Mohamed Salah, endures a dry spell, their No.10 is flying.
His goal here was his 20th of the campaign, matching his tally for the whole of last season, and his 17th in the league. He’s now level with Salah on both counts. He has 11 in his last 11 appearances.
Mane had smiled when asked after Wednesday’s Champions League win over Bayern Munich whether he feels “under-rated” when compared to the likes of Salah. “I like the question,” he grinned, though he refused to answer it. He’d rather do his talking on the pitch.
Good idea. In a week of stellar Champions League performances, Mane’s deserved to sit comfortably alongside those of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo – big displays on the big stage. He’s firing Liverpool towards a big finish to the season, at home and abroad, the quiet man delivering the loudest performances.
Just as in the Allianz Arena on Wednesday, he was the most dangerous player on display here, by a distance. Bright and busy, sharp in his movement and clinical when given a chance, he might have had more but saw a flicked header smack off the crossbar just moments before Babel’s equaliser. It could have been a big 60 seconds or so, that.
On another ‘nearly’ day for Salah, and on a day when Roberto Firmino, smart first-half assist aside, failed to sparkle, Mane’s magic was exactly what Liverpool needed.
If he can keep it up, and if some of it can rub off on Salah, then Klopp’s men will be smiling come May.
They got away with one here though. Fulham, who are bound for the Championship, gave the league leaders a right scare. Klopp will hope they can do the same against their next opponents – Manchester City.
“Average game, sensational result,” was the Reds boss’ assessment here. He’d taken seven more of those, you can be sure of that.
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