Liverpool recovered from back-to-back defeats and conceding the opening goal on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Bournemouth to move to within three wins of ending a 30-year wait for the Premier League title.
Callum Wilson’s controversial early opener sent shockwaves around Anfield after a run of three defeats in four games in all competitions.
However, the prolific duo of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane quickly turned the game around and a heroic goal-line clearance from James Milner in the second half secured the win to open a 25-point lead at the top of the table.
Jurgen Klopp’s decision to make seven changes for Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea in the FA Cup had been questioned as Liverpool lost the chance to build some momentum heading into a big week.
Atletico Madrid visit fortress Anfield in the Champions League on Tuesday hoping to defend a 1-0 first-leg lead and despite the enormity of that clash, Klopp only rested Andy Robertson although first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker was also sidelined by a hip injury.
The spread of coronavirus could have a big impact on the Reds’ title celebrations in the weeks to come with the possibility of games being played behind closed doors. But the abandonment of the normal pre-match ritual of handshakes was the only disruption to the Premier League calendar this weekend.
Liverpool’s dip in form has coincided with a lack of clean sheets for Klopp’s men after a run of 10 in 11 league games between early December and mid-February.
The hosts’ backline was breached again after just nine minutes, although Klopp was rightly furious that VAR did not intervene to disallow the goal.
Joe Gomez was knocked off balance by Wilson to start the move and the Bournemouth striker then had the simple task of tapping home Jefferson Lerma’s cross.
The defeat leaves the Cherries still in the bottom three. They were left to rue not making even more of a bright start as stand-in goalkeeper Adrian turned over Nathan Ake’s powerful header.
Bournemouth played a large part in their own downfall and settled Liverpool’s nerves when substitute Jack Simpson gifted possession to Mane in a dangerous position. Despite a poor pass from the Senegalese, Salah steered the ball into the bottom corner to mark his 100th Premier League appearance for the club in style.
Eight minutes later, Liverpool led when Bournemouth again gave the ball away cheaply. Virgil van Dijk released Mane in behind and he kept his cool to slot into the far corner.
The champions-elect still needed a brilliant clearance from Milner to secure all three points as he sprinted back to clear Ryan Fraser’s lob over the stranded Adrian on the hour.
Wilson and Ake also passed up a huge chance to level in the final minute.
However, Liverpool could easily have had more goals. Mane curled a brilliant long-range effort off the bar and Roberto Firmino fired over with a glorious chance for his first league goal at Anfield this season.
Reigning African Footballer of the Year Sadio Mane scored the goal that brought Liverpool victory at Norwich and moved the Reds closer to a first English league title in 30 years.
The 27-year-old Senegalese came off the bench to strike on 78 minutes and break the resistance of the gallant home side in the lively top-versus-bottom clash.
Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ivorian Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal were other African scorers in the Premier League at the weekend.
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG/NICOLAS PEPE (Arsenal)
Pepe teed up Aubameyang for his 17th goal of the season with a towering header to open the floodgates in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Newcastle. The Ivorian then found the net himself with a trademark left-foot finish and set up another goal late on for Alexandre Lacazette as the Gunners returned to winning ways after four straight draws.
SADIO MANE (Liverpool)
Mane scored the only goal in Liverpool’s 1-0 win at Norwich to continue their relentless run towards the Premier League title. He was making his comeback from a hamstring injury, but showed no signs of rustiness by controlling Jordan Henderson’s through ball with his right foot then firing home with his left.
JOSEPH AIDOO (Celta Vigo)
Ghanaian Aidoo found himself lined up against a stellar cast of strikers as he played on the right side of Celta Vigo’s back three at Real Madrid. Real recalled Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale but Aidoo and the defence conceded only two goals to earn a draw in Madrid and keep just above the relegation zone. Aidoo came within a finger nail of making an even bigger splash. In the final minute of the first half he outjumped the Real defence at a corner and smashed a header toward the far corner of the goal, only to be denied by a world-class save from Thibaut Courtois.
Ivorian forward Gervinho returned for Europa League hopefuls Parma, tapping in on 25 minutes in a 1-0 victory over Sassuolo, for his fifth goal this season. The 32-year-old had been exiled from the first team and dropped for four games after trying to force a move to Al Sadd, the Qatari club coached by former Barcelona star Xavi.
ACHRAF HAKIMI (Borussia Dortmund)
The Morocco wing-back again proved why he is one of Dortmund’s most potent forces going forward with two assists in a 4-0 drubbing of Eintracht Frankfurt. The 21-year-old, on loan from Real Madrid, spotted captain Lukasz Piszczek free on the edge of the area to give Dortmund a first-half lead. Hakimi then claimed his ninth league assist this season just after the break, getting in behind the defence to square for Norwegian teenager Erling Braut Haaland to score his ninth goal in six games.
JAMILU COLLINS (Paderborn)
The Nigeria defender failed to stop bottom side Paderborn losing 2-1 at home to Hertha Berlin after deflecting a shot by Brazilian striker Matheus Cunha into the net. At 1-1 in the second half, Collins was on the goalline when Cunha hit a shot with the side of his foot, which cannoned off the defender.
VICTOR OSIMHEN (LILLE)
Nigerian international Osimhen gave Lille a 51st-minute lead against second-placed Marseille, pouncing onto Jonathan Bamba’s pass to beat goalkeeper Steve Mandanda for his 13th goal of the season, the same number as PSG’s Brazilian superstar Neymar. However, their Champions League rivals hit back with two goals in two second-half minutes to earn the three points.
Sadio Mane struck as Liverpool overcame Storm Dennis and feisty basement club Norwich 1-0 to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 25 points on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp’s champions-elect were short of their fluent best in windy conditions at Carrow Road but returned immediately to winning ways after their winter break.
Liverpool have gone 43 top-flight matches unbeaten, just six matches behind Arsenal’s record of 49 games in 2003-04 and are sprinting towards their first league title for 30 years.
They have earned 103 points from the past 105 available to them in the Premier League, winning 34 of their past 35 matches.
“They caused us a few problems but overall I thought it was another good performance and we got the goal to get us the three points,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson told Sky Sports.
“You’re probably bored of me saying it but we’re one step closer, it’s just about focusing on the next game,” he added. ‘We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season, never change that.”
The result leaves Daniel Farke’s Norwich rooted to the bottom of the table, six points behind 19th-placed Watford. They look set for an immediate return to the Championship despite their battling performance.
Klopp brought back midfielder Naby Keita for his first start in a Premier League match since December and Mane was on the bench as Liverpool started with confidence.
The champions-elect controlled possession in the early stages without creating many clear-cut openings but Norwich managed some brief spells of attractive passing football themselves.
Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino was particularly impressive, producing an exquisite piece of skill to control a long Jordan Henderson pass before the ball was stolen off his toes as he shaped to shoot.
But despite a few scary moments, Farke’s men kept Liverpool quiet and came close to snatching the lead themselves.
Lukas Rupp got in behind the Liverpool defence and controlled a long ball over the top. He opted to pass to his left to Teemu Pukki but Alisson Becker produced a superb save, clawing the ball away at the feet of the Finnish striker.
– Mane breaks deadlock –
Liverpool were quickly on top again in the second half but struggled to create clear chances until Keita tested Tim Krul from distance in the 58th minute.
The Anfield giants laid siege to the Norwich goal but frustration mounted as the home side somehow kept the score at 0-0.
Moments later Keita should have done better when he reacted quickly to a rebound off Krul but the goalkeeper dived to his right to deny the Guinea international.
Alexander Tettey almost caught Becker out on a rare Norwich foray into the Liverpool half, thundering a shot against the near post as the home crowd roared their team on.
Just when it seemed Norwich could become only the second team this season, after Manchester United, to deny Liverpool all three points, Mane broke the deadlock.
The second-half substitute controlled a long ball from Henderson with his right foot in the 78th minute before lashing home with his left.
Pukki had a late chance to equalise but shot straight at Alisson as Liverpool held on for their 25th win in 26 Premier League matches.
Defending champions Manchester City, reeling from a potential two-season European ban for breaching fair play rules, are in second place in the table but have no chance of winning a third straight title.
European champions Liverpool can turn their thoughts to the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
However, neither Salah nor Mahrez attended the event.
Giving his acceptance speech, Mane said, “I am really happy and at the same time I am really proud to win this award. It’s a big day for me.”
According to CAF statistics, the Senegalese scored 34 goals and made 12 assists in 61 appearances last year.
The Pride Of Nigeria
In the female category, Super Falcons’ Captain Asisat Oshoala was named as the 2019 African Women’s Player of the Year.
Oshoala, who plays for Spanish side Barcelona, beat Ajara Nchout of Cameroon and South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana, who was crowned in Senegal last year to claim the title.
It is the fourth time the 25-year-old is being crowned the best African female footballer.
She won the award in 2014, 2016 and 2017, and was also among the final three in 2018 but lost to her South African rival Kgatlana.
Shortly after she was announced as the winner, Oshoala took to Twitter to thank her family and friends, as well as her fans and colleagues locally and internationally for their support.
Grateful to be African Women’s Player of the year for the 4th time. Thank God, my Family, Friends and Fans for the support. Big shoutout to my club , my management , team mates at both national team and club level and of course thanks to @CAF_Online for the opportunity ❤️❤️🙏🏾
Liverpool staged a thrilling fightback to beat Aston Villa 2-1 thanks to Sadio Mane’s last-gasp winner, while Manchester City kept in touch with the Premier League leaders after their own escape act in a 2-1 victory against Southampton on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side trailed to Trezeguet’s first half goal at Villa Park, but hit back to preserve their unbeaten league record this season in dramatic fashion.
Andrew Robertson equalised with four minutes left before Senegal winger Mane’s stoppage-time goal gave Liverpool their 10th win from 11 league games.
The Reds, chasing their first English title since 1990, are six points ahead of second placed City.
Pep Guardiola’s champions fell behind to James Ward-Prowse’s early goal at the Etihad Stadium.
But Sergio Aguero levelled for City with 20 minutes left and Kyle Walker snatched the winner in the 86th minute to keep Liverpool in their sights.
Elsewhere, Manchester United slumped a 1-0 loss at Bournemouth and Arsenal were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Wolves, but all the focus was on the drama at the top of the table.
Villa took a shock lead in the 21st minute when Egypt midfielder Trezeguet met John McGinn’s free-kick and fired through the legs of Liverpool keeper Alisson, with the goal given after a video assistant referee check.
Roberto Firmino thought he had equalised for Liverpool, but the Brazilian was flagged for offside from Mane’s cross.
The goal was ruled out by VAR, with the Premier League offering a bizarre explanation that said Firmino’s “armpit” was offside.
Liverpool’s equaliser finally arrived in the 86th minute when Mane’s driven ball was met by Robertson and the full-back headed in at the far post.
Then in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, Mane glanced in from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner to complete Liverpool’s incredible revival.
Southampton had lost 3-1 at City in the League Cup on Tuesday, a result that came just days after their 9-0 league thrashing by Leicester.
Few expected anything but another defeat for Saints, but they took the lead in the 13th minute when City keeper Ederson spilled Stuart Armstrong’s shot and Ward-Prowse was on hand to slot home from close-range.
Aguero struck in the 70th minute when the club’s record goalscorer converted Walker’s low cross.
With the momentum finally on their side, City won it in the 86th minute as Walker pounced after goalkeeper Alex McCarthy failed to deal with Angelino’s cross.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United had taken a “step back” after their mini-revival came to a crashing halt as Josh King’s strike gave Bournemouth the points at Dean Court.
Solskjaer’s men had not won away from home since March until 10 days ago, but three consecutive wins on the road at Partizan Belgrade, Norwich and Chelsea hinted at a turning point for the Norwegian.
Instead, the failings that have characterised their season were back in evidence as a lack of goal threat and one moment of slack defending inflicted a fourth Premier League defeat in 11 games.
“We have to win games like this. We are disappointed but when you come to places like this you have to take control of the game,” Solskjaer said.
“We were missing some quality at times. It is a step back for us today.”
Unai Emery’s problems mounted as Raul Jimenez gave Wolves a 1-1 draw as fifth placed Arsenal surrendered the lead for the third time in a week.
The Gunners appeared to have put the issues surrounding Granit Xhaka to one side, the midfielder watching from home after swearing at supporters last week, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck.
The Gabon striker, captain with Xhaka absent, bagged his 50th Arsenal goal in the 21st minute.
But Emery has now overseen a run of two wins from the last nine league games after Jimenez rose to header in an equaliser with 14 minutes remaining.
Newcastle climbed out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 win at West Ham.
Sheffield United are up to sixth after a 3-0 victory against Burnley and Brighton beat Norwich 2-0.
Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah ensured Liverpool maintained their 100 per cent start to the Premier League season by coming from behind to beat Newcastle 3-1 at Anfield on Saturday.
The European champions have a history of starting slowly in early kick-offs under Jurgen Klopp and only arose from their slumber after the Magpies took a shock lead through Jetro Willems on seven minutes.
Mane turned the tide before half-time with a sumptuous finish into the top corner before profiting from an error by Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka for his second.
Dubravka redeemed himself after the break with a string of fine saves to keep the final score down but was helpless when Salah finished coolly from Roberto Firmino’s cute backheel.
Klopp’s men open up a five-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table, but the champions can cut that gap back to two with victory at Norwich later on Saturday.
Newcastle sprung a huge surprise by claiming their only win of the season so far at Tottenham three weeks ago. They followed the same script as they frustrated the hosts in the early stages before stunning Anfield by going in front.
Willems turned inside Trent Alexander-Arnold before drilling a fierce shot past the helpless Adrian.
Liverpool trailed at home for the first time since March but quickly rallied to record a 14th straight Premier League victory.
Mane was furious with Salah after being substituted in a 3-0 win away to Burnley before the international break, accusing the Egyptian of being too greedy in his eye for goal.
But it is the Senegalese who has more goals so far this season and he arrowed into the far corner from Andy Robertson’s pass to get Liverpool back on level terms.
Firmino had been rested from the start after his travels to the United States with Brazil during the international break, but he was soon called into the action as Divock Origi limped off injured.
And Firmino made an instant impact as his pass towards Mane was spilled by Dubravka for the Liverpool number 10 to roll into an empty net.
Liverpool had only one scare once they were in front as Emil Krafth blasted over a great chance to bring Newcastle level again at the back post.
However, it was only a matter of time before the Reds made the game safe as Dubravka saved brilliantly from Robertson and twice denied the excellent Firmino, who was named man-of-the-match despite only coming on eight minutes before half-time.
The Brazilian bagged another assist when his flick freed Salah, who took his time before leaving Dubravka grounded and placing the ball into the far corner.
Mane was denied his hat-trick and Firmino a triple of assists by the offside flag, but Liverpool cruised through the final stages with one eye already on the start of their defence of the Champions League away to Napoli on Tuesday.
The race to be crowned the English Premier League’s leading scorer this season ended in a three-way tie on Sunday as the African trio of Sadio Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah shared the Golden Boot.
Gabon forward Aubameyang scored twice for Arsenal at Burnley to join Salah and his Liverpool teammate Mane, who netted a final-day double against Wolves, on 22 goals for the Premier League season.
Sergio Aguero, of champions Manchester City, was next in line with 21 goals.
Salah has now won the award two seasons in a row but this term’s winning tally was the lowest by players in English football’s top-flight since 2010/11 when Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez shared the Golden Boot with 20 goals apiece.
Aubameyang was delighted to be a member of an all-African trio of winners, saying in quotes reported by the BBC: “I share this trophy with two other guys I like, great players and African. We are representing Africa, that’s cool.
“I am happy we won, and I am sharing this trophy with two other guys I like.
“My teammates knew about the Golden Boot, I said nothing. I did not want them to play and only focus on me. I am a team player.”
For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp there was the satisfaction of knowing he had a played a part in the careers of all three of this season’s Golden Boot winners, having signed Aubameyang from Saint-Etienne in 2013 when he was in charge of Dortmund.
“Auba too? Do they have three boots?” said Klopp, who suffered the last-day heartache of seeing Liverpool finish just one point behind City.
“It is good. They are all my players,” the German added.
Salah scored 32 league goals last season, a record for a 38-game Premier League campaign.
The 26-year-old is the sixth player to win the Golden Boot award in consecutive seasons.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has signed a new long-term contract with the Premier League giants, the club announced on Thursday.
The 26-year-old joined Jurgen Klopp’s side from Southampton in June 2016, and has scored 40 goals for Liverpool, forming a deadly frontline alongside Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
“I am very happy, very happy to extend my time at Liverpool,” Mane said. “It is a great day for me and now I am looking forward to everything –- to helping the team, to helping the club achieve our dreams and, especially, to win trophies.
“For me, I have made the best decision in my career.”
The Senegal international scored 10 goals as Liverpool reached last season’s Champions League final, and has started the new campaign strongly, netting six times in 11 Premier League games.
He was also named on the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or last month.
The length of his new deal was not disclosed by Liverpool.
“This is a big boost for everyone and another demonstration of how the players we have at this club are committed, not just to our present but our future also,” said Reds manager Klopp.
“I can’t think of a single club anywhere in Europe that wouldn’t want a player like Sadio available to them, so the fact he wants to remain with us says something about where we are currently.
“He is a such an important member of our team and squad. He radiates joy and I think this is reflected in his performances and impact on the pitch.”
The Anfield club put their unbeaten record in the league this term on the line against Watford on Saturday.
Senegal’s Sadio Mane said Liverpool’s free-scoring is due to good teamwork after his brace helped last season’s Champions League finalists to an impressive 4-0 thrashing of West Ham in their Premier League opener on Sunday.
The 26-year-old scored either side of half-time with Mohamed Salah opening the scoring and Daniel Sturridge adding a late fourth in a campaign that many have predicted Liverpool will be champions Manchester City’s main challengers.
“We did a great job and created many chances,” Mane told the BBC.
“We played well from the beginning to the end.
“Before the goal it’s always important to start the game well which is what we always try to do.
“Scoring made it more relaxed for us and we try to work hard and push as a team onto the fourth.”
Mane, who appeared to be offside for his second goal, said he and Salah might take the plaudits for being on the scoresheet but their team-mates merited just as much praise.
“We try to do our best to score goals for the team because without those we can’t do anything,” said Mane.
“It’s the teamwork, we do things together. We will try to score more goals.
“We have a strong team. That will help us to push hard and fight to do our best.”
Liverpool have spent big in the transfer market and Guinean midfielder Naby Keita — who signed last year but joined from RB Leipzig for this season — stood out of the new arrivals in the number eight shirt which was last worn by Steven Gerrard.
“Naby Keita is a good player, you can see that and he’s only going to get better,” Liverpool midfielder James Milner told Sky Sports.
“Coming into a new team is not always easy. You can only imagine how good he’s going to be with more time with the boys.
“He’s top quality and like all the signings we’ve brought in there’s even more competition. That’s what you want.”