Football

Mane hauls Reds back into top four

Striker's brace lifts Liverpool after Manchester United briefly overtook them with earlier win

EPL
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Sadio Mane 16, 18  

The jet-heeled Sadio Mane scored a quick-fire brace as Liverpool revitalised their Premier League campaign with an impressive 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Sunday (Singapore time).

The Senegalese flier provided one of several outstanding displays from a Liverpool side that had not previously won a league game in 2017, their worst start to a calendar year since 1954.

"It was how you have to play against Tottenham and of course we had to show a reaction," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp told Sky Sports.

"The reaction was perfect. It was an outstanding performance."

Liverpool moved back into the top four, above Manchester City, who visit Bournemouth on Monday, and Manchester United, who briefly climbed above them after beating Watford 2-0.

Tottenham remain second, but they are now level on points with Arsenal after Alexis Sanchez scored twice to earn Arsene Wenger's side a much-needed 2-0 victory over Hull City.

Spurs' setback means Chelsea can move 12 points clear at the summit if they win at Burnley later on Sunday.

While the title seems destined for Stamford Bridge, the battle for positions below Chelsea could not be more tight, with two points separating Spurs in second and United in sixth.

Liverpool badly missed Mane during his time at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal and he gave a dazzling display of his qualities with two goals in the first 18 minutes at Anfield in his first home start since New Year's Eve.

They were the highlights of a sensational start by Liverpool, which made a mockery of the troubles that have plagued Juergen Klopp's side since the turn of the year.

Liverpool had already launched a number of lightning-fast counter-attacks when they finally took the lead after 16 minutes through exactly that tactic.

Georginio Wijnaldum played a magnificent through-ball down the middle of the park and Mane easily outpaced Ben Davies before beating Hugo Lloris with a confident strike from 10 metres.

Anfield was electrified and the din from the goal celebrations had barely died down before the home supporters had another one to appreciate.

This time England international Eric Dier was at fault, caught in possession by Mane deep inside his own half, with the forward launching another devastating counter.

Mane slipped the ball square to Adam Lallana, whose first shot was parried by Lloris.

The Spurs goalkeeper recovered well to keep out Roberto Firmino's follow-up attempt, but he could do nothing as Mane showed great technique to hook a shot into the roof of the goal from just outside the six-yard box.

The only wonder as Tottenham reached the half-time whistle with only two goals against them was that the London side, who had gone nine games without defeat, were not in even deeper trouble.

A poor touch from Firmino spared Spurs on 13 minutes, although it still required a brave block by Toby Alderweireld to keep out Philippe Coutinho's shot from the rebound.

Mane might have completed a six-minute hat-trick after 22 minutes, but saw his shot deflected wide before his blistering shot from the resulting corner was saved magnificently by Lloris's left hand.

Tottenham responded briefly, Simon Mignolet denying Son Heung-Min with his outstretched legs and Lucas Leiva defending magnificently, on his goal-line, to put a Dele Alli header over the bar.

But the first half ended with Liverpool firmly in control.

Firmino charged down a Lloris clearance and might have capitalised, Coutinho rolled a tame shot at the goalkeeper and full-back Nathaniel Clyne produced a sweet shot that Lloris gathered.

Tottenham looked steadier after the restart, not quite so vulnerable to Liverpool counter-attacks, and Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip both picked up early bookings for fouls as the visitors made forays into the home half.

Harry Kane, totally anonymous in the first half, even hit the post from a Christian Eriksen free-kick, although the move was flagged for a clear offside.

Kane's frustrations spilled over after 66 minutes when he was cautioned by referee Anthony Taylor for a late and nasty trip on Clyne - one of five Spurs players, and eight in total, to be booked.

Liverpool looked the more probable team to add to the scoreline.

Matip's header was caught by Lloris and then Lallana set Coutinho up on the edge of the area, the Brazilian's low shot flying just wide of the goal.

After the defeat, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino seemingly gave up the fight for his side's first EPL title when he said: "The whole team were poor. It is about balance and today it was poor. That is the truth. We are in a position that is up to us.

"But if you show like today that you cannot cope with the pressure to play to win the league, then it is difficult to challenge and fight for the Premier League.

"In the first 45 minutes you saw a team that is not ready to fight for the Premier League. We need to show more. In the end we will fight for the top six, but it's difficult to fight for the Premier League."

- AFP

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