Sadio Mane was Liverpool’s match-winner on Saturday at Norwich and it was a milestone goal for the No. 10, once more proving his importance.
Picking the best player in the team used to be an easy thing at Liverpool, but not these days. It’s largely an irrelevance, too; the fact all the players range from somewhere between ‘great’ and ‘world-class’ is what makes the team unstoppable.
Mane is up there with the best in all regards though: technical quality, reliability and consistency, importance to the team and ability to decide a match.
His excellent strike at Carrow Road came just 18 minutes after coming on as sub, having missed the previous two league games with injury.
That was Mane’s 100th goal in English football, three-quarters of which have come with Liverpool, and considering he has operated almost entirely as a winger or wide forward, his almost one-in-two strike rate—75 in 155 games—is exceptional.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 15, 2020
When Mane was told about his feat, his response was utterly typical of the entirely selfless man: thanking his interviewer and praising his team-mates rather than taking any credit himself!
“Really! Wow, thank you!” Mane said, on Sky Sports.
“It was not easy [being out injured]. As a football player everyone wants to play all the time, but you have to deal with it. I went for some treatment, I worked hard and I came back.
“We are a strong team and the boys do a great job. We are Liverpool, we are a strong team and we’re happy with our result today.”
But there’s much more Mane’s goals than just coming regularly; for the Reds, they also come at crucial times.
But when it comes to hitting the all-important first goal of a game to open the scoring, few in the league can match Mane’s clutch impact.
Liverpool’s opening goals this season
Liverpool Set pieces 8
Other Liverpool players 8
Opposition Corner 4
— SimonBrundish (@SimonBrundish) February 16, 2020
Only Danny Ings (13 of 15), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (8 of 14) and Jamie Vardy (8 of 17) can better that tally domestically.
Mane is an ultimate big-moment and big-game player, and even before this season that has long been apparent.
As attentions turn back toward European action, his goalscoring run in the 17/18 Champions League shouldn’t be forgotten in a hurry, nor his clutch brace at Bayern Munich last season.
In a season which will now naturally turn toward talk of a potential treble, Mane’s immediate impact is exceptional news for Liverpool.
They’ll need one of their most vital players to be in the match-winning form he’s capable of showing on the big stage, if further trophies are to follow that of the Premier League.