Liverpool forward Sadio Mané featured for his native Senegal as they took on South Africa, in a World Cup qualifying tie, on Saturday afternoon and Martin King has a comprehensive review of the winger’s performance.
The match, held at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, ended in a 2-1 victory for the Rainbow Nation, who boosted their campaign to make it to Russia in 2018, by moving to the summit of their qualifying group.
Mané played the full 90 minutes in Polokwane and we can take a look at how the former Southampton man fared for his country with an in-depth analysis of his performance.
Donning the number 10 for Senegal at a sunny Peter Mokaba Stadium, Mané started in his usual right-wing position.
South Africa began on the front foot, playing the ball forward from the kick-off and putting their opponents under some early pressure. That meant that Mané’s first touch didn’t come until the second minute, when the forward received the ball deep in the opposition half. Mané sought to initiate a counter-attacking move but was immediately stopped by the referee for a pull on his opponent.
His next contribution came on 8 minutes. A nice turn and move in Senegal’s half saw Mané carry the ball to his opposite flank, where he won a free-kick after being brought down. The resulting set-piece saw his side create the first chance of the match, which the Liverpool man got on the end of, his strong header just going wide.
South Africa were dominating possession in the first quarter of the match, meaning that Senegal had a lot of work to do off the ball. As a result, Mané found himself employing the familiar task of pressing the opposition along with his teammates and it seemed to pay good dividends in the 23rd minute when Mané won the ball following an attacking move by South Africa and turned the tables for a Senegal counter-attack.
A burst of pace and close control saw the winger reach the edge of the opposition box quickly and there he played a pass to his teammate, whose shot from outside the box went straight to into the hands of ‘keeper Itumeleng Khune.
As South Africa continued their dominant spell in possession, Mané was increasingly pivotal in recovering it and a large part of the first half saw him do the bulk of his work in the home side’s half, relying on a few counter-attacking moves to create chances for his side.
One of those chances, in the 36th minute, saw Mané open the scoring for Senegal, however, the effort was disallowed due to a foul on the goalkeeper in the build-up.
Four minutes later, at the other end of the pitch, the home side won a penalty and despite the South Africans making full use of their opportunity to make it 1-0, video replays revealed that the referee – who awarded the penalty for handball – got it controversially wrong.
Senegal may have still been fuming from the referee’s error in judgement following their kick-off, as South Africa sent men forward yet again and scored through Ajax Amsterdam midfielder Thulani Serero. That meant that the first half ended with the travelling side two goals down. Mané and his teammates had work to do.
The second half began much like the first, with the home side the team in possession and Mané’s Senegal looking to force their way back into the match.
The early stages saw them look to create a few openings, with Mané’s pace proving a vital attribute to their attacks, however, the South African defence was showing good resilience as each effort by Mané’s side was well snubbed out.
With the scoreline at 2-0 and time ticking on, Senegal grew more desperate for a goal and their manager looked to bolster their attempts at the hour mark when Mané was instructed to switch positions from the right wing to a more central position. The move proved to be a wise one as the striker’s influence on Senegal’s attacks increased, however, there were still no goals.
That would change in the 75th minute, when a shot from the edge of South Africa’s box took a big deflection, sending the ball into the air. The South African defence failed to deal with the initial ball in their own box and it bounced off the ground, landing well for Mané. The former Southampton star attempted an overhead kick at goal and despite his effort going wide, it did fall to a teammate, whose initial shot came off Khune before the rebound was scored by Damé Ndoye.
That goal put the hosts under pressure to keep their lead and with Mané a growing influence in the final quarter of an hour, what once looked like a certain win for South Africa was turning into a clear chance for Senegal. The Rainbow Nation rode their luck for most of the final stages of the game and it paid off as Senegal were unable to grab the equalizer, losing a vital three points courtesy of a 2-1 loss.
In all fairness, Mané’s performance wasn’t reflective of the type of form he’s been in for Liverpool but the forward remained a source of danger for Senegal’s opponents.
You would be forgiven for thinking that South Africa made Mané a target for their defence on this occasion, as there were a number of hard fouls committed on him throughout the match – some of which would have drawn a few deep breaths of concern from the modern-day Liverpool pessimist.
However, the striker made it through 90 minutes without any concern. He will understandably be frustrated with the manner in which his country lost this match and because his club boss Jürgen Klopp demands so much of his players, he will fairly feel like he could’ve contributed more for Senegal.
It wasn’t to be, though, and Mané will have a chance to rectify that when his side takes on Burkina Faso in a second and final World Cup qualifier of the year.
That means that Senegal fans will continue to enjoy his displays of pace and power but on the other side of the coin, the Liverpool faithful will hope he returns to Melwood ready to prepare the same qualities for a meeting of his former club, Southampton.