Wijnaldum returns from illness to help Liverpool go top
|(Sadio Mane 24, Georginio Wijnaldum 34, Mohamed Salah 48)|
Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum is rarely the headline grabber for Liverpool but a special goal and an outstanding all-round performance in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth showed his value to Juergen Klopp’s team.
Wijnaldum’s display of pressing, passing and one sublime finish, was all the more remarkable given the state he had been in ahead of the game.
“He didn’t sleep in the team hotel last night. He had diarrhoea and vomiting two nights earlier so he couldn’t come to the team hotel,” said Klopp.
“He had pretty much everything you don’t want to have two nights before a game. Then he said, after a couple of hours' sleep, 'I feel good, I can play',” added the German.
Wijnaldum’s goal was a perfectly weighted lob over Cherries’ goalkeeper Artur Boruc after the Dutchman had superbly brought down a lofted pass from left-back Andy Robertson in the 34th minute.
It showed another side of Wijnaldum’s game and that for all his aggression and work rate in midfield, he also possesses a deft touch.
Klopp though joked that he was worried he might pass on his illness to his teammates in the celebration.
“I was concerned after he scored a goal that everyone gives him a hug,” said Klopp, who added Wijnaldum’s attitude was typical of his squad, who lead Manchester City by three points ahead of their title-rivals’ match with Chelsea on Sunday.
“The character and mentality of these boys is the only reason we are where we are. We can use always the character and attitude of the boys. We can win football games and we will win. How many? We will see,” said Klopp.
PRAISE FOR MILNER
The German was also quick to set the record straight about skipper James Milner’s performance at West Ham on Monday, saying he had shown the same spirit as Wijnaldum and played while ill.
“It is the same like Milly’s character. I heard some were very critical of Milly’s performance last week, which is a joke,” he said.
Before this game, Liverpool had dropped points in successive 1-1 draws against Leicester and West Ham, sparking suggestions they were losing their nerve in a quest to end the club’s 29-year wait to be crowned champions of England once again..
Mane, however, eased the pressure with an early headed goal at Anfield.
Liverpool doubled their lead through Wijnaldum’s delightful lob before Mohamed Salah sealed victory with a curling shot in the 48th minute.
“We have high expectations and today we won in an impressive manner – we had some outstanding performances on the pitch. Goal number three (from Salah) was world-class,” said Klopp.
“We wanted to show a reaction. It’s our job not only to come through but to really perform and convince.”
Liverpool will have a 10-day break to prepare for the Champions League last-16, first-leg tie with Bayern Munich, which is followed by a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Feb 24. – REUTERS, AFP