Sadio Mané double gives Liverpool comeback win after Newcastle scare

Andy Hunter at Anfield
Sat 14 Sep 2019 19.57 BST

There are days when you must accept magnificence in the opposition ranks and your punishment. This was one of them for Steve Bruce. His Newcastle team were committed, disciplined and belligerent at Anfield; they took the lead in stunning style and they were still cut apart by the brilliant precision of Liverpool’s attack. It was a perfect day for the leaders with Manchester City failing in such unexpected fashion at Carrow Road in the evening.

Sadio Mané struck twice and Mohamed Salah once as Liverpool recorded a 14th consecutive Premier League win and extended their unbeaten league run to 22 games, their longest under Jürgen Klopp. The pair were indebted to sublime assists from Roberto Firmino, who came off the bench to turn an awkward assignment into a comfortable triumph with some magisterial touches. Jetro Willems’ thumping early strike and the league leaders’ difficulties were long forgotten by the time Salah sealed another three points, to take them five clear at the head of the table.

“The top end of the pitch is always the most crucial and Liverpool’s front three are as good as you can get,” admitted the Newcastle manager, whose bench was barren in comparison to the options available to Klopp. “You can understand why they have not been beaten here for two and a half years, are European champions and lost only one game last season. It has been difficult but we knew it would be difficult.”

Klopp’s concern that the international break would disturb his team’s rhythm was initially well-founded. Liverpool started sluggishly. “I started enjoying it after about 25 minutes when we finally arrived in the game,” their manager said. The accuracy of Firmino and Jordan Henderson, both rested before Tuesday’s Champions League tie at Napoli, was missed. An added problem was Newcastle’s tight organisation and sharpness on the counterattack.

There was no surprise about the 5-4-1 formation that brought three points for Bruce’s team on their last away trip at Tottenham. In Christian Atsu and Joelinton, Newcastle also had a potent mix of penetration and power that caused the Liverpool defence problems whenever it combined. The regret for Bruce was that it could not be sustained due to the intensity that returned to the hosts’ display, although not before Newcastle stunned Anfield by taking the lead. Atsu released Willems down the left and the wing-back stepped inside Trent Alexander-Arnold, a little too easily, to drive an unstoppable finish into Adrián’s top corner with his supposedly weaker right foot. Bruce burst out of his dugout in shock and joy. His team had something to hold, Liverpool something to lose. Despite near misses from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mané the home team did not spark into life immediately after falling behind. But the pressure built gradually and inevitably told.

Liverpool should have had a chance to level from the penalty spot when Jamaal Lascelles pulled Joël Matip at a corner. The referee, Andre Marriner, and a VAR review were unconvinced over a decision that looked clear to the naked eye. “We don’t need VAR for these decisions,” said Klopp. “It was a clear penalty.”

He was still haranguing the fourth official when Liverpool equalised through Mané’s perfectly placed finish. Andy Robertson beat Emil Krafth to a 50-50 and found Mané in space inside the area with Fabian Schär dragged across. The Senegal striker picked his spot to perfection and Martin Dubravka could do nothing about the shot that sailed into his top left corner.

The goalkeeper was culpable when Liverpool gained the lead. Firmino had been on the pitch two minutes as a replacement for Divock Origi, who twisted an ankle early on but continued until his substitution was inevitable. The Brazilian’s first contribution was to dispossess Atsu and pierce the visiting defence with a perfectly weighted ball into Mané. Dubravka was slow to react and weak in his attempt to collect. The ball spun over the Newcastle keeper and Mané converted into an unguarded net.

Firmino’s second assist was exquisite. Krafth had squandered a glorious chance to equalise when blazing over an Atsu cross. Liverpool otherwise maintained the pressure and extended their lead when Salah played a one-two with Firmino, took the return away from two defenders and found the far corner. But that does not do justice to the pass from Liverpool’s No 9, who rolled the first touch under his right foot before flicking the ball into Salah’s run with his left instep. Schär was injured simply attempting to keep up with Salah – a thankless task. Liverpool cruise on.

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