Liverpool were struggling. In that first half at St Mary’s, they were under the cosh, you could say. An energetic start had petered out and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton had taken control of the game.
The Reds needed an out. Oh, how they needed one. Getting to half-time at 0-0 was the best any of us were hoping for. The Saints had threatened Adrian’s goal on more than one occasion in the opening 45 minutes and, in many ways, Jurgen Klopp’s side was fortunate to still be on level terms with the hosts.
Then he strikes. Sadio Mané – Liverpool’s Senegalese number 10 – receives the ball just inside the box from James Milner. He kills the ball at his feet, then, with two more touches, he has set himself up for a shot on goal.
Mané wraps his right foot around the shot, generating enough power and whip to bend the ball past the outstretched arms of Angus Gunn and just inside his left-hand post.
It was a moment of class from a man who has played the best football of his career over the last 18 months. Mané has certainly stepped out from the shadow cast by his two fellow Liverpool frontmen, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
The strike against Southampton brought Mané’s tally to 20 goals in all competitions for 2019 – a scoring rate only matched by Sergio Aguero in this calendar year.
Mané shared the 2018/19 Premier League Golden Boot award with teammate Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Senegalese star scored 22 goals in the league despite not taking penalties.
On Saturday, Southampton looked like they would take advantage of The Reds’ understandably tired legs. Liverpool were in desperate need of a touch of magic. Sadio Mané provided exactly that.
Roberto Firmino put Liverpool two up in the second half and Klopp’s men went on to take all three points, despite a howler from Adrian to gift Danny Ings a goal for Southampton.
While Salah and Firmino have also started the season well, Mané has simply picked up where he left off in 2018/19.
As long as his legs don’t fail him in the second half of the campaign, Mané could improve on his ‘best-ever’ figures from last season. And such consistency will be vital in any push Liverpool make for silverware in 2020.