Three things learned as Liverpool go second after 2-0 win over Newcastle

Alex Rea 3/03/2018
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Mohamed Salah was on the scoresheet once again as Liverpool defeated Newcastle 2-0 at Anfield to return to second place in the Premier League.

Salah put Liverpool ahead just before half-time before Sadio Mane added a second 10 minutes into the second half.

Here, we look at three things learned.

KARIUS BENEFITING FROM RUN OF GAMES

Huddersfield Town v Liverpool - Premier League

Liverpool are fast running out of legitimate excuses not to be a side capable of mounting a title challenge next season.

Virgil van Dijk’s arrival has had the desired effect in hardening the back four but behind the Dutchman Loris Karius has equally added a degree of fortification.

The arrival of Van Dijk and the superb form of Karius are far from coincidental circumstances but the German is delivering on the performances at Mainz which suggested he could be the front-footed keeper needed to implement Klopp’s system successfully.

The debate over Liverpool’s No1 spot has been a narrative which has undercut their campaign with links in January to Roma’s Alisson dominating the rumour mill.

But the links have since been tempered by a Karius resurgence and the 24-year-old is clearly benefiting from the faith shown by Klopp.

He’s started every Premier League game in 2018 bar the New Year’s Day win over Burnley and he secured a fourth clean sheet this year on Saturday – a stunning first-half save denying Mohamed Diame a certain equaliser, his 16th stop in that run of fixtures.

The constant communication from Van Dijk has obviously given him confidence in tandem with consecutive games and his new mental fortitude is allowing his raw athleticism to come to the fore.

OX IS GETTING SALAH IN THE BOX

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Another Liverpool player flourishing at the moment is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The 24-year-old has two goals and five assists in his last 10 starts and his combination with Mohamed Salah led to another goal on Saturday.

Marooned at right-wingback for Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlain always insisted his best position was through the middle and he’s being vindicated for that stance with his performances in Liverpool’s middle three.

His pace and ability to carry the ball forward through the midfield opens up the space in the channels for the likes of Salah to profit.

The opener arrived because of his direct run and with players dragged out of the position he created the space for the Egyptian and then poked to him for a 24th league goal of the season.

Thierry Henry has said in the past he wasn’t sure what Oxlade-Chamberlain was good at – after a fourth assist to Salah in the league (joint with Sadio Mane) it’s clearly passing to the Egyptian.

SALAH IS MAKING HISTORY

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s energy behind the front three has given the Reds a new dynamic in attack but no-one is exploiting that more than Salah.

The 25-year-old notched his 32nd goal in all competitions, surpassing Luis Suarez for the best goal-scoring season in Liverpool history.

No player within the big five European leagues has scored in more competitive club games than Salah (26 games) this season and he’s also leading the Premier League scoring charts alongside Tottenham’s Harry Kane.

He’s also scored in his last seven games in all competitions with the last Reds player to score in more being Daniel Sturridge (eight) in February 2014.

There are still three more months of the season to come and you can be sure Salah will tumble more records before May.

Two players mentioned above, Sturridge and Suarez, linked with Raheem Sterling to make up one of Liverpool’s best ever front threes.

But Salah is spearheading one even better than that alongside Mane and Roberto Firmino who as a collective have 68 goals this season.

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Liverpool player ratings as Mohamed Salah strikes again to sink Newcastle 2-0

Jay Asser 3/03/2018
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Mohammed Salah now has 32 goals in all competitions for Liverpool.

Another fixture, another Mohamed Salah goal as Liverpool‘s familiar formula for success produced a 2-0 league victory over Newcastle on Saturday.

The Egyptian scored his 32nd goal in all competitions this season, firing left-footed under Magpies stopper Martin Dubravka in the 40th minute from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain‘s pass.

Not too long after, Sadio Mane kept the party going by adding Liverpool’s second on the back of Roberto Firmino‘s set-up in the 55th minute.

With the win, Liverpool now move up to second in the table, ahead of Manchester United and Tottenham.

Here are the player ratings for Liverpool on the night.

STARTING XI (4-3-3)

Loris Karius Picked off a threatening shot aimed at the corner with a diving save at the end of the first half but wasn’t required to do much after. 7

Virgil van Dijk Quietly went about his business at the back and did what he had to anytime Newcastle pushed forward. 7

Dejan Lovren – Hardly had to make his presence felt, but that will sit just fine with Liverpool fans as there were no defensive lapses to be concerned about. 6

Andrew Robertson – Liverpool played more through the middle so his pace and crossing down the flank wasn’t required as much, but got forward at every opportunity. 6

Trent Alexander-ArnoldStruggled on occasions to get the ball out of Liverpool’s box to start the second half but was otherwise solid as he marauded forward. 6

Jordan HendersonDid some of the little things needed to keep the ball moving while also thwarting Newcastle’s runs in front of the defence. 6

Sadio Mane – Touch wasn’t on point for much of the night but made his strike count in the second half for Liverpool’s second goal. 7

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – His run and pass to Salah set up Liverpool’s first and he did well playing in the middle to help facilitate the attack. 7

Emre Can Was fairly anonymous as the ball didn’t seem to find him much, but also didn’t put a foot wrong. 6

Roberto Firmino – After a few of his passes early on failed to connect, he fed Mane perfectly to put Liverpool 2-0 up and settle the points. 7

Mohamed Salah – Not the classiest of his 32 finishes this season as he drove the ball through Newcastle keeper Dubravka, but his strike was crucial as it got Liverpool off the mark as they made their first-half pressure count. 8

SUBSTITUTES 

Adam Lallana – His gradual return to the line-up continued with some time as Liverpool comfortably held their lead. 6

James Milner – Had little opportunity in the few minutes he saw. 6

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Leroy Sane reflects on his evolution at Manchester City, telepathic team-mate Kevin De Bruyne and making the Germany World Cup squad

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Leroy Sane jokes about Pep Guardiola “criticising me straight away” when he first arrived at Manchester City, but the exciting young German admits the former Bayern Munich manager is taking his game to the next level.

Twelve goals and 13 assists have been registered in 35 games played by the talented 22-year-old, who has quickly become an integral part of a swashbuckling City side that are taking the Premier League by storm.

Guardiola’s side have been head and shoulders above the rest, with City a mighty 16 points ahead of Manchester rivals United with 10 games left, having tasted defeat just once this season.

Sane has already surpassed last season’s tally of nine goals and looks as if he’s been at City for years, but he admitted he had to quickly get used to Guardiola’s way of working after arriving from Schalke in the summer of 2016.

“As soon as I arrived here he was criticising me straight away,” Sane told presenter Jamie Redknapp in an interview for Sky Sports ahead of Sunday’s clash with Chelsea at the Etihad.

“He showed me where I can improve and every time I made a mistake he would say ‘You have to do it like this’. And when I tried to do it, I could see it helped me. Before you come here you hear that he is a good coach and then you come here and you really see how he works and you feel it.

“And you realise ‘Wow he can really help me’. He makes the game easier for you to keep the ball, to see where your team-mates are, what you can do with them and how you can help them. And you can see that everybody wants the ball and to help.”

Sane has heaped praise on team-mate Kevin De Bruyne and coach Pep Guardiola.

Sane has heaped praise on team-mate Kevin De Bruyne and coach Pep Guardiola.

And Sane said Guardiola’s instructions are based on ‘the simple things’.

“I hear this every training session, every game, all the time,” added the Germany winger.

“For him, he just wants us to do the simple things, like a pass over two metres. So just be focused on not making an easy mistake and losing the ball and then the other team makes a counter-attack and scores.

“They are like stupid mistakes and this is what he wants me – and the other players – to improve. Even I can improve, which is kind of funny.”

Of course, Sane is just one of an army of City players in scintillating form this season, with Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne all shining.

And Sane admits that brilliant Belgian De Bruyne – battling with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah for player of the season honours – has an almost telepathic understanding with his team-mates.

“Kevin is a fantastic player and everyone knows and can see that,” he said.

“He also really enjoys playing football and the way he plays is fantastic – the assists and some of the passes he plays. I just run into the space and say ‘Kevin, here, here’. Sometimes he is not even looking at me and he still passes the ball.

“And that is why I always say that when Kevin has the ball, something is going to happen. So, we as strikers have to be ready and give him a choice of where to play the ball.

Leroy Sane 2

“And even if the space is really tight and you think the ball cannot go through, you still must expect that he will find a way to play the ball through.”

Sane was on song as City beat Arsenal 3-0 at the Emirates on Thursday, a mirror image of the dominant display and scoreline they inflicted as the Gunners were blown away in the EFL Cup final last Sunday.

His superb run set up the opening goal for Bernardo Silva in the league game, and Sane admits he is in the form of the life.

“Yes, of course, this has been the best season of my career,” he said.
“I have improved a lot, even from last season, with this coach. And I am really enjoying it and having so much fun playing and training with my team-mates. I am kind of lucky to be here.

“Sometimes you have to give an assist for someone to score a goal and that is a really good feeling, especially when you give a good pass, or after dribbling past someone and then passing for someone to score.”

Sane has terrorised opposition defenders this term and he is happy out on the flank, even if he can see himself playing more centrally later in his career.

“I like to play wide, but as a youth I played more in the middle as a 10,” he said. “So for me they are both really good positions and we will see what will happen if there are any coaches who come in and say ‘You can play through the middle for me’. But I am also really happy to play wide.”

Speaking of terrorising defenders, Sane surprisingly singled out Crystal Palace’s Manchester United loanee Timothy Fosu-Mensah as one of his toughest opponents so far this season.

He said: “It was before when I was playing against Kyle Walker. And Crystal Palace’s right-back Timothy Fosu-Mensah, I have played against him twice this season, and even last season, he had me really well under control and I told him how happy I was to play against him.”

City have swept all before them this season, their only defeat coming in a thrilling 4-3 loss to Liverpool at Anfield in January.

And asked what problems the Blues can cause his side on Sunday, Sane said: “It will be a really tough game, they have really strong and quick strikers, they stay in the defence really well and waiting for the mistakes of the opponent.

“And then they try and attack you really quick, seeing the spaces and most of the time playing through the middle. So it will be a really tough game against them.”

Pressed on whether the Premier League was everything he expected it to be, Sane added: “Yes, it is a really tough league, but so much fun.

“The games are so crazy and quick and it is so exciting to watch the big games. And you never know what is going to happen, even if they play against smaller clubs you have to expect everything. So I am really enjoying playing in this league.

“It is 100 per cent more physical here than in the Bundesliga, while it is quicker here. It is also kind of a bit boring in that you know it is Bayern Munich who is always winning the league. In the Premier League, anything can happen, whereas it is only Borussia Dortmund challenging Bayern.

“And they play carefully, they do not try and play good and aggressively at the front, to score goals and to play dangerously with risks. So this was what was really saying to me the Premier League is so exciting for me and this is what I tried to look for and even how I like to play.”

Sane will hope to be part of the Germany World Cup squad this summer.

Sane will hope to be part of the Germany World Cup squad this summer.

Sane was not part of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning squad in Brazil. He made his debut for Die Mannschaft a year later and has gone on to win nine caps under Joachim Low.

He hopes to be part of the squad in Russia this summer and, if he succeeds, admits Germany will have one aim, to retain the trophy.

“I hope I can be part of the squad that goes to the World Cup,” he said.

“I am really looking forward to it as it is the biggest tournament for football, everyone is watching it in the world and I hope I can get some experience there too. I think the Germany team is really good, strong team, we are one of the favourites and our target is to defend the World Cup.”

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