Mane 9/10 in Liverpool's win in Salzburg to seal Champions League knockout-round qualification
Liverpool booked their place in the knockout stage of the Champions League as they defeated FC Salzburg 2-0 at the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday.
Both sides had a parade of chances in what was an electric first half of football in Austria, and it took until the 57th minute for the Reds to score with Naby Keita breaking the deadlock. Within less than two minutes, Mohamed Salah made it two, ensuring that Jurgen Klopp can now begin his preparations for the round of 16.
The Reds reacted positively to the growing pace of the game and were able to match Salzburg's intensity. Whenever they were able to string a few passes together, they cut through the hosts time after time, and upon scoring the opener, they didn't let their foot off the gas. Their ability to keep pushing and maintain a high tempo will continue to bode well for them throughout the remainder of the season.
Salzburg definitely found success in dragging Liverpool into a dogfight, with the visitors especially struggling with counterattacks. They were constantly leaving gaps at the back, and in the middle of the park they just didn't enforce their will as much as they have in the past. Whenever their opponents show no fear from an attacking perspective, it takes Klopp's men some time to get going.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- It's going to be a busy few weeks for Klopp with the festive period on the horizon, but even with that being the case, he was able to recognise the importance of this competition by fielding a strong starting XI. One could argue that their lack of width was a stubborn act on the manager's behalf and could've cost them, but for the most part, his decision making was on the money as were his changes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 8 -- Made a number of important saves that kept the game within the Reds' grasp. Commands his defenders unlike many other goalkeepers at this level.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 7 -- Always seems to be much more confident going forward than defending, especially when whipping the ball into dangerous areas.
DF Dejan Lovren, 6 -- Kept Erling Braut Haaland onside on a few occasions and struggled early in the game, but came into his own and looked strong prior to going off with an injury.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 8 -- Was able to deal with Salzburg incredibly efficiently whenever they came forward, and continues to serve as the rock at the heart of Liverpool's defence.
DF Andy Robertson, 7 -- Made the right side of the pitch his own once again and grows in confidence with each and every appearance he makes.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 8 -- Bursts through the middle unlike most and shows the vision and intelligence of a true world-class player.
MF Jordan Henderson, 7 -- Took a while to work out the structure of Salzburg's midfield but showcased the maturity and experience that makes him such a valuable asset to this team.
MF Naby Keita, 8 -- Produced a superb performance by setting things up well, creating openings and eventually getting himself on the scoresheet.
FW Mohamed Salah, 7 -- Missed a handful of potentially vital chances, but managed to get the goal that was alluding him courtesy of a lovely finish from an insanely tight angle.
FW Roberto Firmino, 6 -- Didn't have his most active day at the races and struggled to shine in the midst of strong showings from Keita and Mane.
FW Sadio Mane, 9 -- Has the kind of all-around ability that makes him one of the best players on the planet right now. Did fantastically well in the build-up to the opener.
DF Joe Gomez, 6 -- Looked calm and collected and could be called upon to feature more often in the starting XI depending on the severity of Lovren's injury.
MF James Milner, N/R -- A stable force that was brought on to help maintain the lead and help kill the clock for Liverpool.
FW Divock Origi, N/R -- The fan favourite had a nice run out in the final few minutes as his cult-hero status remains intact.