The Brazilian scored twice and created another of his club’s four goals at the Emirates on Sunday, while the Senegal international was scorching on his debut
Pep Lijnders had the perfect description. “Phwoar, machine!,” he succinctly declared when talking about Liverpool’s £30 million signing Sadio Mane.
The Senegal international, recruited from Southampton at the end of June as the Reds’ third most expensive purchase ever, provided another sample of why he’s more than worth the hefty sum in Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Arsenal.
Not only did he display his strength, speed, skill and surety when toying with Nacho Monreal and Calum Chambers before tucking his effort into top corner for Liverpool’s fourth of the evening, the 24-year-old was industrious throughout on his competitive debut for the Anfield side.
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He completed the most take-ons in the match, notched the highest ball recoveries and topped the tackles table.
Even when Liverpool were indecisive and passive at the onset of the first half, Mane was a constant source of promise for the visitors at the Emirates.
He fed the feet of Philippe Coutinho when the Brazilian drew a foul off Rob Holding, before perfectly executing the resulting free-kick.
Liverpool did not deserve to be level on the balance of play after Theo Walcott’s opener, yet their two-time Player of the Year got them back in the game with another stunning curler to add to his weighty catalogue. “Maybe our first goal of the season, will be our goal of the season!” Jurgen Klopp said of the strike, which he also labelled ‘genius.’
When Coutinho turns it on, he turns defences inside out and the game on its head, as was the case against Arsenal.
The attacker followed up the equaliser by flicking on cleverly for Gini Wijnaldum, who provided a lofted pass to Adam Lallana for Liverpool’s second.
The 24-year-old then treated himself to another goal after anticipating Nathaniel Clyne’s low cross into the box and finishing past Petr Cech again. He could have recorded a hat-trick right afterwards after being set up by his compatriot Roberto Firmino, but the Arsenal stopper was finally able to foil him.
Coutinho and Mane embraced at the final whistle, both praising each other’s contribution. The latter looked to be telling his team-mate that he was the match-winner, but Coutinho shook his head and pointed back at Mane as if to suggest it was he who made the difference.
In truth, both players provided the inspiration for Liverpool to record a thrilling triumph to start 2016-17 off positively.
It was far from a surgical performance from Klopp’s side, but the pair were luminary when the Reds needed it most.
Ragnar Klavan, who made the most clearances – of the headed variety too, also enjoyed a solid debut despite conceding thrice.
And Wijnaldum, the final player making his bow for the Reds in north London, elevated his display in the second 45, contributing to Liverpool’s second and third goals.
Last season, Coutinho had to do too much on his own too often. That shouldn’t be case anymore given the quality Klopp has injected into his attack, and especially with Mane looking tailor-made for the manager’s blueprint.