Sadio Mane struck twice to maintain his fine goalscoring form and Liverpool’s 100-per-cent start to the season in a 3-1 win against Newcastle United.
The visitors had last won at Anfield in the Premier League 25 years ago, but Jetro Willems stunned the leaders in the seventh minute when he collected a pass on the left, cut inside Trent Alexander-Arnold and then unleashed a fierce strike into the top corner.
It took a similar effort to level a keenly-fought encounter in the 28th minute. Andrew Robertson set up Mane for a curling finish.
And it was the Senegal striker who claimed the crucial second, and his sixth of the season, five minutes before the break.
Roberto Firmino, on as a sub for the injured Divock Origi just three minutes earlier, played a pass through. The ball, somehow, went over the diving Martin Dubravka and there was Mane to compound the misery of the Newcastle keeper by slotting into the empty net.
The third goal came courtesy of Mohamed Salah in the 72nd minute, a left-foot finish, after a wonderful flick by Firmino.
MANE THE MAIN MAN
Manager Jurgen Klopp and team-mates were keen to play down Sadio Mane’s show of dissent after being substituted at Burnley, but many understood the frontman’s frustration.
There is little doubt that Mane is currently Liverpool’s biggest inspiration in attack, arguably their best player.
Lively and lethal, he is producing moments of quality that matter in games. Be it goals or assists.
5 - For the second consecutive season, Liverpool have won their opening five games of the Premier League campaign – the only previous two teams to do so in back-to-back seasons were Chelsea (2009-10/2010-11) and Man City (2015-16/2016-17). Marker. pic.twitter.com/aRwWTKhNHU— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2019
It used to be Salah, but, although he was on target, the Egyptian has struggled to show the class and consistency of old.
Mane has stepped up and how the Reds needed him to do so yesterday as they found Newcastle resolute opponents.
He took his tally to six in all competitions this season and his brace was a combination of sublime and simple.
Managers don’t take off their best players unless they are injured or being given a rest before the next game. Mane should be afforded that status.
WAKE-UP CALL FOR SLOPPY REDS
“Wake up,” wailed a Liverpool fan nearby. Anfield was strangely quiet after Newcastle took an early lead so the criticism could be heard loudly.
He was not the only one to voice his displeasure, though, as another pass was misplaced.
It was a sloppy and subdued start from the leaders. They were being pressed in the same manner as other teams usually opposing the Reds – and they didn’t like it.
50 - Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in 50 Premier League goals for Liverpool at Anfield, scoring 36 and providing 14 assists (41st appearance). Unstoppable. pic.twitter.com/skduO9qYTS— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2019
The normally reliable Robertson was particularly culpable and yet again this was an indication of how Liverpool’s much-vaunted defence of last season is susceptible under pressure.
Better teams will take greater advantage and punish such mistakes.
Napoli, and their livewire Lorenzo Insigne, are up next in the Champions League and Klopp’s men can’t afford to be as slack.
They also had far greater control when Roberto Firmino came on and provided the perfect link between defence, midfield and attack. Liverpool may still be unbeaten, but there is room for improvement.
PROMISING SIGNS OF PROGRESS FOR TOON
It has been a tough start for Steve Bruce since taking charge at Newcastle, but there are clear signs of progress and potential.
Until Mane’s fine equaliser, they had squeezed Liverpool to the extent the hosts were giving the ball away cheaply and forced to send hopeful, hopeless long balls into the box.
With a five-man backline and full-backs Jetro Willems and Emil Krafth encouraged to push forward against Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, they were organised, fit and the tactics worked well.
100 - Liverpool have now scored 100 goals against Newcastle in the Premier League; the third team to score 100+ against a single opponent in the competition, and first to do so against a side who hasn’t been ever-present (Arsenal 107 v Everton, Man Utd 100 v Everton). Century. pic.twitter.com/Hyfp7A039y— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2019
Captain Jamaal Lascelles was strong in the middle of three centre-backs and made some timely interventions.
He had previously been tipped for England honours when coming through. Now working under Bruce, himself a distinguished former centre-back and Manchester United captain, Lascelles could take his game to another level if he learns and develops.
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