Sadio Mane was given the coveted centre-forward role as Liverpool welcomed Watford to Anfield.
The Senegalese has usually operated on the left or right of a front three this season but was played through the middle against the Hornets in the absence of the injured Roberto Firmino.
Here, Football Paradise assesses the contribution of the former Southampton forward.
When Jurgen Klopp selected Divock Origi to replace Firmino, ruled out because of an ankle injury he sustained in Sunday’s goalless draw at Manchester United, it was anticipated the switch would be a like-for-like replacement. Instead, Mane was given an opportunity to take centre stage as Origi was pushed out onto the left and Mohamed Salah was deployed in his normal position on the right channel.
If there were any concerns about how Mane would fare in a new role they were quickly extinguished within nine minutes, when the 26-year-old rose high to head home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s inch-perfect cross. The goal ensured Mane has now scored in each of Liverpool’s last five home matches. More was to follow, though, as 11 minutes later he collected another dangerous Alexander-Arnold ball into the area and, with his back to goal, sent an audacious back heel over flummoxed Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster and into the net for his and Liverpool’s second goal of the night.
Much of Liverpool’s early attacking play was concentrated down the right side through Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah, and the pair’s industry allowed Mane to come to the fore. Mane, while content to put in the hard yards, occasionally lost his positional sense after the interval, dropping too deep into midfield or out wide, although he worked well alongside Origi and Salah to ensure Firmino’s absence was not missed too much.
Liverpool had drawn four of their last five matches in all competitions coming into this fixture but Mane’s early brace went a long way to settling any nerves that were around Anfield at kick-off. His double took him to 14 Premier League goals for the campaign – overhauling his previous best of 13 in the English top-flight, which he amassed in the 2016/17 season, his first in Liverpool colours. While this was not a flawless display, he was deservedly given a rapturous ovation when he was withdrawn with 12 minutes to go.
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