Liverpool player ratings as Sadio Mane stars again to take Reds back to the summit after nervy win

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Sadio Mane was the star again for Liverpool.

Liverpool got a nervy win away to Fulham to move back to the top of the Premier League table, with James Milner’s late penalty giving his side a 2-1 victory.

This could easily have been a case of dropped points for the title challengers but instead, with Manchester City not playing in the league this weekend thanks to their FA Cup game, Liverpool can experience the feeling of leading the league again.

Here’s a look at how the players performed..

STARTING XI

Alisson 5 – As a statistic, Fulham’s goal will go down as a Virgil van Dijk error, but the Liverpool goalkeeper was probably more to blame. A nervy moment that could have cost his side dearly in the title race.

Trent Alexander-Arnold 8 – Alexander-Arnold’s delivery from the right flank was superb, as he managed to find the right cross at almost every time of asking.

Joel Matip 7 – Not often that Matip will end a game as the better-performing Liverpool centre-back, so this is a moment he can relish. Strong in the air to deal with the threat of Aleskandar Mitrovic as part of a generally firm display.

Virgil van Dijk 6 – A rare error from Van Dijk contributed to Fulham’s goal, and it threatened to be the moment that derailed Liverpool’s title charge. Thankfully, the one time he needed it, the defender was bailed out by his team-mates.

Andrew Robertson 7 – Another marauding display from the left-back, who bounced back from an average game against Bayern Munich.

Georginio Wijnaldum 6 – Came close to scoring a sumptuous third goal, firing just wide after a flowing Liverpool move, but he also had a glaring miss from just four yards out, unable to get his head over the ball for a point-blank header.

Fabinho 6 – Jeopardised his game with a first-half yellow card, and there were a couple of risky tackles after that. But overall, this was another solid display from the Brazilian.

Adam Lallana 7 – A lively presence in attack, as his running had Fulham’s defence backpedalling throughout. Didn’t provide much of a goal threat, however.

Mohamed Salah 6 – What’s ailing Salah? That’s now seven straight games without a goal, his longest drought in Liverpool colours. Thankfully the rest of the attack is stepping up.

Roberto Firmino 7 – The run he made to set up a one-two with Mane that led to the opening goal was excellent, as was the pass to find his team-mate. Another display where Firmino showed he can do more than just score goals.

Sadio Mane 9 – There’s no stopping Mane at the moment. His movement for the first goal was brilliant, and it was just his mere presence as a potential threat that led to the game-winning penalty. He’s leading Liverpool’s title charge at the moment.

SUBSTITUTES

Divock Origi 6 – A decent cameo off the bench from the Belgian, who shows enough to give his manager the confidence that there is good depth in the squad, even if he doesn’t always score or have a direct impact.

James Milner 6 – It was his sliced clearance that led to Fulham’s opening goal, but he made amends by stepping up and doing what he does best: stroking home a pressure penalty.

Daniel Sturridge N/A – Came on in injury time to help see off the game.

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Why Sadio Mane deserves to be in the same bracket as Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane

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Liverpool can go back to the top of the Premier League table this weekend.

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum believes team-mate Sadio Mane deserves to be in the same bracket as the Premier League’s top strikers.

The Senegal international scored his 18th and 19th goals of the season in the 3-1 win over Bayern Munich which put the Reds into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

That tally puts him only one behind Mohamed Salah. In terms of Premier League goals the diminutive forward, who plays out wide and not through the middle, has 16 in 29 matches – just two behind leading scorer Sergio Aguero.

Mane has 10 goals in as many games in all competitions – including three doubles – and is enjoying his best goalscoring return in his five seasons in English football.

And that is why he has to be mentioned alongside the City striker and his in-form team-mate Raheem Sterling, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, and Salah.

Mane is as good as Salah, says Wijnaldum.

Mane is as good as Salah, says Wijnaldum.

“He is really good. The games tell you that, he is really important with his goals and assists. A good season, his best with us,” said the Dutch international.

“They (media) do not speak about him? I think the other players have shown they get the headlines but Sadio also.

“He has had a big influence on winning games. Mo did not score (against Bayern) but had a good game.

“People speak about the player who had two goals. A lot of players do the work and make the difference.

“You have to speak about everyone. For me, Sadio is up there with those players you named.”

Wijnaldum is the most senior, established player yet to be rewarded with a new contract after the likes of Salah, Mane, Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson all got new deals in the last 12 months.

However, with the club still fighting on two fronts it is an issue the Dutchman, who still has more than two years remaining, is not concerned about.

Especially as a new contract will, in all probability, will be sorted over the summer ahead of next season.

“No. I did not speak with the club yet,” he said.

“(Is it) a problem between me and the club? I am not a person who has problems. That (contract) is something for the club. I will see what happens.

“I signed a five-year contract (in the summer of 2017) and I am still under contract. I just do my job to perform. A new contract has to come from the club.”

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Pain of losing Champions League final is driving Liverpool on, says James Milner

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Liverpool midfielder James Milner admits the hurt of losing a Champions League final is driving the team as they try to correct that disappointment this season.

However, that does not mean they will be taking their eye off the ball in terms of chasing a first domestic league title in 29 years as the vice-captain feels they believe they can compete on two fronts – even if the critics do not.

The 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev last May was something of a freak result as Jurgen Klopp’s side were the better team until Mohamed Salah was forced off with a shoulder injury suffered during a tangle with Sergio Ramos.

Goalkeeper Loris Karius, suffering from concussion after an earlier blow, had a meltdown for two of the goals, with the other a fantastic overhead kick from Gareth Bale.

It left Liverpool with a feeling of missed opportunity, and a degree of injustice, something Milner wants to put right.

“I don’t think we think about that too much at this moment in time but it is a memory that never goes away too quickly. You still think about it now,” he said.

“Maybe – hopefully – if we get to the final, we can think about putting it right then.

“We probably took more positives from last year than negatives but it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you lose the final of the Champions League and the way we went down.

“I have been to three finals since I have been here (the League Cup and Europa League in 2016), lost them all and I am desperate to put that right.

“You are proud to have played in the European Cup final but you don’t go there to lose.

“Listen, I have loved every minute of my time at Liverpool but to have not won something when we have given ourselves opportunities is difficult to take at this moment.”

Liverpool still have two chances to win a first trophy since the 2012 League Cup and first under Klopp.

The title race is still too close to call and Milner believes progress in Europe will help rather than hinder domestic progress.

“You know, it’s been so long since we won a league title. Even in recent years Liverpool haven’t won as many trophies as they should do for such a big club,” he added.

“Even for us now – we are a young team, we are improving but the chances we have given ourselves? We have to put that right.

“We have to get over the line in one of them.

“But (we can use) the thoughts of the run we had, the teams that we beat and the confidence that we gained.

“Then you see how we are playing in the Premier League – we have only lost one game – that is confidence and helping us move forward as a team.

“We are in two competitions and we can manage that, game-wise. There is the good feeling you get from winning in the style that we did (in Munich), the confidence going into the weekend.

“We got a good feeling from getting out of the group and we have got a good feeling after knocking out Bayern Munich. You can only take positives.”

Liverpool remain a team few will want to be pitted against in Friday’s quarter-final draw because of their recent record in the competition.

Even Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s support for Bayern in the aftermath of his own club’s qualification for the last eight on Tuesday was as much about not having to face their north-west rivals as it was about his former employers.

“Ah, yes. That’s unlucky for him, isn’t it?” said Milner with a wry smile.

“I’d like to think teams have that respect for us.

“We got to the CL final last year. We got to the Europa League final in 2016. We are challenging for the Premier League.

“Whether teams take notice is not really for us to worry about but they take notice after they have played us and we have put them out.”

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