Liverpool’s front-three was given praises upon praises last season for their pioneering role in a scintillating European journey that led them to the Champions League final.
Mohamed Salah set a new Premier League record for the highest number of goals by one player in a single 38-game season with 32 goals from his 36 appearances while Roberto Firmino enjoyed his best goals return to date.
Such was their brilliance that Sadio Mane’s role was often overlooked. It wasn’t down to a lack of quality mind, with the Senegalese international scoring Liverpool’s only goal in Kiev alongside a hattrick in Porto and significant strikes against Manchester City and Roma.
Yet, this season has seen a growing awareness surrounding just how integral the forward is to Klopp’s side, benefitting from a rich vein of form at a time when Liverpool’s goal-threat had been appearing to stall. Draws against Manchester United and Everton may have been decent points on the road, but a lack of incision in the final-third reflected a stunt in attacking verve at Anfield.
In the absence of others, Mane has stepped up as Liverpool’s go-to man, playing with a confidence that has seen him break into the bracket of world-class players this year.
Where Liverpool stuttered against West Ham and Leicester earlier in the season, it was Mane who stepped up to the plate, securing a point in frustrating circumstances. While the results remain a disappointment, his goals demonstrate his growing ability to stand up and deliver when his team needs it the most.
Scoring a brace against Burnley at the weekend, Mane became only the fifth Liverpool player to score in six successive Premier League home games before replicating his form on the European stage.
A well-contested opening twenty-five minutes saw two heavyweights cancel each other out before a moment of pure brilliance split the contest in favour of Klopp’s men. Instant control, a sumptuous turn and an ice-cool finish to boot, this was perfection in every sense of the word as Mane latched on to Van Dijk’s long-ball, rounding Manuel Neuer and chipping the ball between two onrushing defenders.
Indeed, Wednesday night was Mane’s night, with the 26-year-old lighting up the Allianz Arena in a performance that typified just how influential he has been this season.
Alas, there was something incredibly fitting about him having the final word of the night, nodding in from Mohamed Salah’s outside of the boot cross that carved open the defence, sending the travelling Kop into a frenzy.
He now has ten goals in his last ten games while Salah and Firmino have netted six between themselves, conveying the recent form that sees him just one goal off being the club’s top scorer this season and his entire 2017/18 tally.
Mane is irreplaceable at present; the main man to Liverpool’s quest for glory. It’s high time he was given the praise his performances deserve.