The unsung Liverpool star proving to be as pivotal to Salah – and it’s not Mane

The unsung Liverpool star proving to be as pivotal to Salah – and it’s not Mane

 Sadio Mane chest-bumped his manager amidst a standing ovation, Virgil van Dijk roared at the Kop and the Kop roared back   If it has ever been lost, this was a night when Liverpool rediscovered their swagger , when they looked like a team too good to crack under pressure  Never mind it was against a surprisingly insipid Watford, never mind the result along the M62 meant little change at the head of Premier League affairs  As doubts about their confidence and conviction had surfaced, this was a statement performance from Jurgen Klopp’s team  Emphatic in its outcome, emphatic in its execution. No wonder Klopp beamed wider than normal Read More Jurgen Klopp reveals what Sadio Mane did to surprise him in Watford win  If a sliver of self-belief had been shorn from his footballers in recent weeks, it was well and truly restored here  Even Klopp had a supremely assured night, his deployment of Mane in a central role paying almost immediate dividends for the early breakthrough that swept away even the smallest crumbs of anxiety  Mane was not quite used as an old-fashioned centre-forward but he began joyous Liverpool proceedings with an old-fashioned centre-forward’s header  Mane has that in his weaponry, he unholstered it in the previous Premier League win against Bournemouth Read More Liverpool player ratings revealed after win over Watford maintains title race lead  It helps when you get deliveries as immaculate as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s fizzed inswinger but the conversion into the top corner was sweetly-timed  If Mane’s first was gloriously conventional, his second was magnificently freakish  A poor first touch when collecting another Alexander-Arnold invitation almost put him back into his own half, hence the collective double-take when he sent a back-heeled strike into the turf and up over Ben Foster  It was the sort of exhilarating moment that has been scarce for Liverpool in recent weeks and no surprise it was provided by Mane  If he started out as a standard central striker here, it did not last for long.  His unorthodoxy, sharpness and appetite for work was simply too much for Watford to handle  This was Mane, Mo Salah and Liverpool at their dizzyingly irresistible.  The undercurrent of criticism that accompanied Salah’s performance at Old Trafford seemed to spur him on  The upright, Ben Foster and poor execution combined to somehow keep him goalless but he was almost at his most unstoppable  For all the discussion about his form, there is unlikely to be as anyone pivotal to Liverpool’s title fate as Salah  Alexander-Arnold might give him a run for his money.  The England full-back’s dynamism was missed against Manchester United and he seemed on a mission to remind Klopp of that fact  His pace and directness has not been in doubt and the same can now be definitively said for his composure and creativity with his final ball  Alexander-Arnold brings a verve to this Liverpool team that has taken it to the top  He brings a confidence to it. That was the important thing for Klopp and his team here – rediscovering the self-assurance that has characterised so much of their season  And this was as self-assured as it has been for some considerable time with Divock Origi wandering through a couple of flimsy interventions that masqueraded as challenges and finishing with right-footed power before Van Dijk’s late, towering double-header  The first gave Alexander-Arnold his third assist of the night, the second complemented a cracking Andy Robertson cross  And Anfield was back to its bouncing best after a performance that suggested reports of their title anxiety have been very much exaggerated

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