Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp hailed Sadio Mane’s versatility after the Senegal forward scored to help his side secure a 2-0 win over Villarreal in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
Mane, again playing in a more central role like he did in Premier League wins over Manchester United and Everton, scored in the 55th minute, after an own-goal had given Liverpool a second-half lead.
The 30-year-old has scored 20 goals in 44 appearances for Liverpool this season, including six in his past seven matches, as the club seek to secure an unprecedented quadruple.
“He can play left, he can play central, both positions world-class,” Klopp told reporters when asked why Mane has played centrally over the past few weeks.
“He started for us here at Liverpool on the right wing. Some people in the room will remember his goal at Arsenal when it was his first goal, when he cut inside and fired the ball with his left foot into the far corner,” Klopp said. “Absolutely outstanding — I loved it.”
“There are different ways that Sadio plays and sometimes we want him to drop slightly more, but today we wanted him to stay even more between the centerhalves, to keep them away and offer the runs in behind,” he said.
“He has the skillset for it,” Klopp added.
Mane’s goal was his 14th in the Champions League knockout stages.
Mane helped Senegal to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in February and scored the winning spot-kick in a shoot-out that secured them a spot at this year’s World Cup finals.
Klopp said that Mane could be in line to win the Ballon d’Or if Liverpool win the Champions League.
“If you are not [Lionel] Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, you have to win probably the Champions League, which we didn’t do yet, so give us a few more weeks and then we will see where we end up,” he said.
Liverpool have now scored 135 goals this season, but were held scoreless in a frustrating first 45 minutes, during which Mane headed wide Mohamed Salah’s pinpoint cross.
Mane saw a deflected effort fly just wide, and Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli escaped unpunished with some sloppy handling from a number of speculative efforts.
Another long-range strike was the closest Liverpool came to breaking the deadlock before the break, as Thiago Alcantara’s sweet strike clipped the post.
The six-time European champions started the second half at a higher tempo and quickly began to punch holes in Villarreal’s rearguard.
Fabinho’s goal was ruled out for offside against Virgil van Dijk in the buildup.
Moments later, Anfield erupted as the error-prone Rulli finally cost the Spaniards with a feeble attempt at parrying Henderson’s deflected cross.
The last thing the visitors could afford was the floodgates opening, but they were powerless to stop the waves of Liverpool attacks.
Salah was the architect with a perfectly weighted pass for Mane to prod past Rulli on 55 minutes.
The offside flag came to Villarreal’s rescue once more to rule out Andy Robertson’s strike.
Emery was hailed the “king of the cups” by Klopp for his stunning UEFA Europa League record, with one of his four triumphs in that competition coming as Sevilla boss against the German during his first season at Liverpool in 2016.
However, Liverpool are a different beast six years on and the limitations of a side sitting seventh in La Liga were shown up as they struggled to mount any sort of response to going behind.
Luis Diaz smashed across the face of goal as Liverpool threatened to kill the tie off with a third.
The English giants had to settle for a two-goal advantage, but they are yet to lose by a two-goal margin in 55 matches this season.
Taiwanese badminton star Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎) yesterday beat Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon in their women’s singles semi-final match to advance to today’s final at the Thailand Open. The top-seeded Tai overcame a 10-21 first-game loss to seventh seed and former world champion Ratchanok to dominate the final two games 21-13, 21-19 in 58 minutes of play at the Impact Arena in Bangkok. World No. 2 Tai is today to face world No. 4 Chen Yufei of China. Chen yesterday bested Pusarla Venkata Sindhu 21-17, 21-16 to secure her spot in the final of the Super 500 tournament. On Friday, Tai overpowered China’s He Bingjiao 21-10,
Wimbledon, widely regarded as the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, was on Friday stripped of ranking points by the sport’s main tours in a move that threatens to reduce the Grand Slam to the status of a high-profile exhibition event. The decision by the ATP and WTA was in response to Wimbledon banning Russian and Belarusian players following the invasion of Ukraine. “It is with great regret and reluctance that we see no option but to remove ATP Ranking points from Wimbledon for 2022,” an ATP statement said. “Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a
Defending champions Taichung Blue Whale thrashed Taoyuan Mars 6-0 in Taiwanese women’s soccer over the weekend, while Hualien City rolled on with their fourth win to sit atop the league table. While Thai fullback Pitsamai Sornsai partnered with compatriot goalkeeper Nattaruja Muthtanawech on defense, Japanese midfielder Maho Tanaka opened the scoring for Blue Whale in Saturday’s match, kicking a screamer on a volley from outside the penalty box — her first goal of the season. The match remained 1-0 heading into the break, although Taoyuan Mars striker Ho Chia-huan, a student at Hsing Wu High School in New Taipei City, had good
Faced with a machete, a fighter leaps and locks his legs around another man’s neck, bringing him crashing down to a cacophony of cheers. This is vovinam, Vietnam’s acrobatic martial art with roots dating back to the country’s struggle for independence, and it is showing at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games for the first time since 2013. Proponents are trained to use not only their hands and legs to grapple a rival to the ground, but also fend off assailants armed with blades. Short for “Vo Viet Nam” (literally “Vietnamese martial arts”) it was inspired by nationalists who sought an end to the