Mane and Firmino push Liverpool forwardline from strength to strength

Soccer Football - Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg - Manchester City vs Liverpool - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 10, 2018 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their first goal with Sadio Mane REUTERS/Andrew Yates
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LIVERPOOL (Reuters) – Having lived in the shadow of Mo Salah’s incredible exploits at Liverpool, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino emerged to match the Egyptian’s contribution as Newcastle United proved no match for the in-form duo on Saturday.

Salah’s initial success at Liverpool took many by surprise as the man Chelsea deemed not good enough before selling to Roma plundered 32 Premier League goals in 2017/18, more than double what either Mane or Firmino could muster.

Salah also provided more assists than either Mane or Firmino in that debut season in England, but the gap has since closed considerably.

Last season, while Salah registered the most league assists of Liverpool’s incredible strike triumvirate, Mane matched Salah’s goal tally of 22 Premier League strikes.

The gap has not closed because Salah has slowed but because the other two have stepped up their game. Mane again matches Salah’s tally of four goals this season after his double in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Newcastle.

Having played for Brazil in midweek in Los Angeles, Firmino was rested from the start against Newcastle, but he was required to come on to replace the injured Divock Origi in the first half.

His two passes for Liverpool’s second and third goals changed the game, and took his assist tally to three, one ahead of Salah.

“I know how difficult it is for a defender when the striker drops his position and he (Firmino) is making life difficult for any defender in the world, I think,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said.

“He is so good and I am very happy he is on my team.”

Mane’s efforts are quite incredible given the unrelenting year he has had. Liverpool’s season last time did not finish until their Champions League triumph on June 1. Less than three weeks later Mane went off to play for the African Cup of Nations.

Senegal got all the way to the final, meaning Mane did not report back to Liverpool training until five days before the start of the new season.

Mane’s brilliant first and perseverance for his second against Newcastle ensured he is the only Premier League player to score 25 or more goals since the start of last season without a single goal coming from the penalty spot.

“Bobby (Firmino) came on in his natural position and looked incredible,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. “Sadio was really flexible in that space, and Mo really strong in one-on-ones all day.

“Wonderful goals. There were some nice football moments today.”

Salah’s super finish for Liverpool’s third took his goal contributions — goals and assist combined — to six. Now, though, Mane and Firmino are just as prolific.

Only four of Liverpool’s 15 league goals that have fired the Reds to five wins from five have not been scored by forwards, with their unyielding front three — as Liverpool pursues a first Premier League crown — seemingly getting even better.