Football Features

Sadio Mane ensures Liverpool live up to their ‘mentality monsters’ tag in comeback win v Newcastle

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 15:03, 14 September 2019

Liverpool maintained their perfect start with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Newcastle United at home.

Jurgen Klopp’s men remain the only Premier League club with a 100% record, having now won five on the bounce and in the process displaying their “mentality monsters” tag.

As for the Magpies, it’s yet another defeat under the embattled Steve Bruce who despite a promising start must rue a gilt-edged chance in the second half.

Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are today’s.

Winner: Sadio Mane

No longer in the shadow of his two equally destructive teammates, Sadio Mane can be accurately described as Liverpool’s most in-form go-to man. He proved that time and time again last season, which turned out to be his most productive campaign in a professional career nearing nine years old.

The last time we saw the Senegalese forward, he publicly displayed his frustration after being subbed off in the Reds win away to Burnley; the move by Klopp came moments following Mane’s displeasure at Mohamed Salah for not playing him in, but any animosity between the pair was subsequently diffused.

Having enjoyed much-needed time off during the international break Mane looked refreshed and punished the Magpies with two efforts in the first half, goal number one was a stunning effort, something we’ve come to expect from him, whilst his second goes down as a gift.

These strikes has now seen him register 20 goals in his last 21 league matches at home. And Mane’s own contribution means he stretches his unbeaten run at Anfield in the Premier League to 50 matches.

Loser: Liverpool’s defence

If someone was to say Liverpool would fail to keep a clean sheet in their opening three home Premier League fixtures this season you’d call them somewhat crazy given how imperious they were last time out. However, that is the reality today, despite their relentless attack there are worrying signs at the back.

Norwich City, Arsenal and Newcastle United have breached their backline – with a small caveat being the lack of Allison in goal – each, though, would score once but for the meticulous Klopp it’s one too many.

In fact, they’ve only kept two shutouts across their last eight Anfield league games. Liverpool’s next three visitors couldn’t be any more challenging: Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and title rivals Manchester City.

Winner: Jetro Willems

What a perfect way to announce yourself. A forgotten name, given what he’s gone through in the last couple of seasons, Jetro Willems (on a season-long loan from Eintracht Frankfurt) – who burst onto the scene when he represented Oranje at Euro 2012 – was expected to have his hands full playing as Newcastle’s left wing-back but in the early proceedings the Dutchman regularly found himself in acres of space much to Liverpool’s chagrin.

The reigning European champions were punished in the seventh minute when Willems perfectly dummied Trent Alexander-Arnold before unleashing a ferocious right-footed strike past Adrián, who, simply put, was beaten all ends up.

An incredible moment. Not only was this Willem’ first goal in more than two years, but he became the first opposing player to break the deadlock at Anfield since Burnley midfielder Ashley Westwood seven games ago. That strike also came inside the opening 10 minutes.

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Loser: Martin Dúbravka

It can be a lonely world as a goalkeeper, with every mistake scrutinised. And there’s no tougher place for an opposing shot-stopper to be keeping goal than in front of Liverpool’s energetic Kop end. Martin Dúbravka is not the first nor will be the last to buckle under such pressures, but he should have done better for Mane’s second of the game.

A teasing ball forward by the newly introduced Roberto Firmino, who came on for cult hero Divock Origi, saw Liverpool’s number 10 latch onto it only for Dúbravka seemingly arriving to gather, it didn’t turn out that way and before he knew it Mane was tapping into an empty net. To get anything from Anfield these days you need to be near-perfect. Newcastle were sitting on a point but it was gone in the blink of an eye.

Winner: Andrew Robertson

It was a tough international period for Scotland captain Andrew Robertson, who saw his side fall to consecutive defeats against Russia (2-1) and Belgium (4-0) at home. In truth he’s not been his usual self of late despite retaining that buccaneering attitude which enabled him to become the Premier League preeminent left-back.

Everything changed when Newcastle showed up at Anfield on matchday five. The 25-year-old Glaswegian finally registered a first league assist of the season. His cut-back was duly converted by Mane and from that moment Robertson became a full-back possessed. He should have had a second assist of the game early into the second half, but Georginio Wijnaldum couldn’t keep his first time effort down. If that wasn’t enough, Robertson came agonisingly close to scoring himself.

Loser: Emil Krafth

Liverpool are yet their ruthless best at the back so whenever an opportunity presents itself you must grab it with both hands. Willems very much did that in the game’s opening salvo before Klopp’s men corrected proceedings through Mane’s double. Still the visitors remained in the game and, given everything we know, it takes a second to score a goal.

However, against teams like Liverpool 80 minutes can feel like a lifetime, especially when you’re not renowned for being prolific in front of goal. That said, when in space inside the penalty area, there’s no excuse not to hit the target. Emil Krafth, playing opposite to Willems, found himself staring down Adrián in the 55th minute but blasted his shot over.

The scoreline was still 2-1 in Liverpool’s favour. Krafth came off 12 minutes later. Mohamed Salah would put the game beyond them soon after.

Winners: Liverpool’s mentality

As touched upon, Liverpool are yet to be operating at their optimum level which must be a worrying sign for their Premier League rivals given they’re currently averaging three goals per game. Klopp’s men, though, possess a sheer unbreakable spirit which has been evident since the beginning of last season. No team has gained more points (19) from losing positions than Liverpool, who have tasted one defeat in this period of relentlessness.

Klopp, himself, dubbed his charges “mentality monsters” due to their never-say-die attitude and knack of scoring in the unlikeliest of situations. They did him proud this afternoon. If anything, this holds Liverpool in good stead especially with the calibre of matches coming up.