Football Features

Liverpool’s conqueror of Europe makes history to confirm semi-final against Barcelona

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:21, 17 April 2019

For large swaths of last season, he was the forgotten man in Liverpool’s irresistible front three, but Sadio Mane is all anyone is now talking about.

And for good reason. With the men in red fighting on two fronts, one of which being their quest to end a 29-year championship drought at home, the Senegalese forward has been Mr. Dependable.

If anyone was going to see them progress into the Champions League semi-finals – and face Barcelona – at the expense of Porto – albeit having taken a commanding 2-0 lead into the second leg in Portugal – the chances were, it seemed, that Liverpool’s ‘number 10’ would be that man.

He did not disappoint, as the Premier League leaders ran out comfortable 1-4 winners, and in the process created a piece of history.

First again

Going back to his recent importance for Jurgen Klopp’s side ex-Red defender Jamie Carragher, on a recent episode of Monday Night Football described Mane as the club’s best winger since John Barnes as well as suggesting if they had a player of his ilk during the 2008/09 season – when they fell short to Manchester United in the Premier League title race – Rafael Benitez’s men would have ended Liverpool’s long wait to be England’s number one team.

High praise indeed from a legendary figure, but there could be truth in his words. Just look at the last 13 matches in all competitions in which Liverpool have found the back of the net. Of those occasions, Mane has popped up with their first goal in nine including away to Porto.

“It’s not just the goals he’s scoring. The most important goal is the first goal. It’s not just scoring, it’s the importance of the goals Mane’s getting,” Carragher stressed.

Salah would then double Liverpool’s lead before Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk got on the score sheet with Red Madrid-bound Eder Militao pulling one back. Barcelona have been warned.

History man

Since joining from Southampton in 2016, thus becoming one of Klopp’s first ever signings at the club, Mane has gone from strength to strength. Every facet of his game – from goalscoring to creativity – has improved tenfold under the German tactician much to the Reds’ benefit.

And it’s in Europe that he’s come into his own. The 26th-minute strike, his fourth of the season, ensured a piece of club history. Despite their incredible pedigree in European football’s premier club tournament, no one until now had bagged 10 knockout goals in the Champions League.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Mohamed Salah is currently the undisputed best African footballer around, but teammate Mane is not far behind. In fact, his ten Champions League knockout goals leaves him in some prestigious company. His effort made him just the third player from Africa to reach this milestone. It drew him level with Samuel Eto’o with only Didier Drogba (14) ahead of them.

Mr. Consistent

Mane has long proven that he’s a player Klopp can rely on. Having not scored in the first leg – honours went to Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino – a unique Champions League run he was on came under threat.

Since debuting in the competition last season, he’s registered a goal in each round he’s played in which, of course, included bagging Liverpool’s only goal in their 3-1 final defeat to Real Madrid.

By putting the Reds in front, Mane maintained that streak and few would bet against him from continuing this run when they face Barça in the semis.