Football Features

Salah & Mane make history in Liverpool 3-1 Norwich – but Klopp credits Pep with the game-changing decision

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:44, 19 February 2022

Liverpool avoided a scare to beat relegation-battling Norwich City and keep the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The Reds dominated the first half but could not put their chances away and just a few minutes after the break they were behind. It was a mixture of poor defending and misfortune from Jurgen Klopp’s side as they allowed Norwich to advance on them with little pressure, while Milot Rashica’s effort beat Alisson via a massive deflection.

While many still expected Liverpool to come away with the win, Norwich were a stubborn opponent and the game was only changed with around 30 minutes to go once Klopp tinkered with his system.

Klopp’s Liverpool has become synonymous with the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 but it was a 4-4-2 that did it for the Reds, a change that Norwich were unable to deal with.

Divock Origi and Thiago were the men to come on in the 62nd minute for Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with the former joining Sadio Mane in attack, flanked by Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz.

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But Klopp would not take full credit for the change, giving special mention to his assistant Pep Ljinders.

“First of all, it’s the coaching team effort (not just my decision),” Klopp told reporters.

“I must say, it was Pep’s idea to change the system. 4-4-2 gave them a challenge and proper threat.”

The formation switch was not the only thing that made a big difference for Liverpool in the final 30 minutes, with the arrival of Thiago also putting the Reds in control.

The Spaniard has been brilliant for Liverpool when played, growing into his role after a slightly slow start hampered by injuries. In just under 30 minutes on the pitch on Saturday, Thiago completed 46 passes, more than six of his outfield teammates, with a pass accuracy of 94 percent, and also created two chances.

“It was difficult for Liverpool when Norwich went ahead, but Thiago absolutely ran the game after coming on,” Jonathan Woodgate said while covering the game for the BBC.

“He quickened the pace and slowed it down when he wanted to. He made the difference. That change from Jurgen Klopp won them the game.”

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The change allowed Salah and Mane to get forward more, and just a few minutes later Liverpool were ahead. First came Mane’s equaliser and then Salah to put the Reds ahead with his 150th Liverpool goal.

The Egyptian has been breaking records left, right and centre since joining Liverpool but in becoming the 10th Liverpool player to hit the 150 mark across all competitions, there was just one man he couldn’t beat.

Only Roger Hunt (226) has reached 150 goals for Liverpool in fewer games than Salah, who hit the landmark in 233 matches. But there was still one Premier League record broken.

Saturday’s game was the 30th time both Salah and Mane have scored in the same Premier League match for Liverpool, the most of any duo for a side in the competition’s history. Liverpool’s record for games in which both Salah and Mane have scored now stands at 26 wins and just four draws.

But this may be the most important double, keeping Liverpool in the title race and the pressure on Man City.

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