Reds could be with­out Mane for six weeks

Aus­tralian for­ward’s ex­tra-time win­ner ends Qa­sioun Ea­gles’ re­mark­able qual­i­fi­ca­tion run

Sport360 - - Latest News - By Steve Grif­fiths @ Sport360 edi­to­rial@sport360.com

Liver­pool for­ward Sa­dio Mane could be out of ac­tion for up to six weeks after pick­ing up a ham­string in­jury on in­ter­na­tional duty.

A state­ment on the club’s web­site said he was sub­sti­tuted just be­fore the end of Sene­gal’s 2-0 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing win over the Cape Verde Is­lands on Satur­day.

“It has now been con­firmed that he picked up an in­jury dur­ing that fix­ture that could keep him out of ac­tion for up to six weeks,” the state­ment said.

Mane’s ab­sence is a huge blow for Liver­pool boss Jur­gen Klopp after the for­ward scored three goals in four Premier League ap­pear­ances this sea­son.

The in­jury is es­pe­cially badly timed for Klopp with Liver­pool’s bit­ter ri­vals Manch­ester United vis­it­ing An­field on Satur­day.

Liver­pool are al­ready seven points be­hind United in the Premier League and can’t af­ford to drop points against Jose Mour­inho’s in-form United.

Sane’s value to Liver­pool has been im­mense since his move from Southamp­ton in 2016, but he has strug­gled to stay fit. He scored 13 Premier League goals last sea­son de­spite miss­ing the whole of Jan­uary due to the Africa Cup of Na­tions. Liver­pool won just once in seven matches in dur­ing his time away with Sene­gal.

Mane tore the menis­cus in a knee dur­ing April’s Mersey­side derby against Ever­ton which pre­ma­turely ended his sea­son. They coped bet­ter that time, with five wins, two draws and a de­feat.

Since his de­but in Au­gust 2016 Liver­pool av­er­age 2.2 Premier League goals with Mane in the team, com­pared to 1.6 goals in his ab­sence.

Mean­while, Manch­ester City have been boosted by striker Ser­gio Aguero’s re­turn to train­ing.

The Ar­gentina in­ter­na­tional sus­tained a rib in­jury in a car crash in Am­s­ter­dam late last month and there were ini­tial fears he could be out for sev­eral weeks.

How­ever, just 11 days later he was in­volved in light train­ing at the club’s East­lands com­plex yes­ter­day with those play­ers not in­volved in in­ter­na­tional fix­tures.

Syria coach Ay­man Al Hakim claimed Mah­moud Al Mawas’ ex­tra-time red card was the turn­ing point as his war-torn team’s fairy­tale World Cup bid ended in the Asian play-offs.

Al Hakim be­lieves the out­siders would have sur­vived un­til penal­ties against Aus­tralia if Al Mawas hadn’t been sent off for a sec­ond book­able of­fence early in the first pe­riod of ex­tra time.

Syria’s play­ers were left in­con­solable after Tim Cahill’s 109thminute win­ner sealed it 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on ag­gre­gate for Aus­tralia, who now go into an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal play-off against the fourth-placed CONCACAF team.

Omar Al Soma also thun­dered a free-kick against the post in the dy­ing sec­onds as the Qa­sioun Ea­gles came within inches of tak­ing the game to ex­tra time.

“The play­ers fol­lowed in­struc­tions very, very well. But the Aus­tralian goal hap­pened be­cause of the pres­sure of the Soc­ceroos,” Al Hakim said. “The first goal was a small mis­take, not a ma­jor mis­take, and the sec­ond goal was be­cause we had 10 play­ers,” he added.

“We stud­ied the Soc­ceroos very well and I think if we had stayed at 11 play­ers and hadn’t had that red card it would have been dif­fer­ent.

“But I am very proud of my boys with what they have achieved so far, and that’s go­ing to be con­tin­u­ing mov­ing for­ward as well.”

Cahill felt it was his re­spon­si­bil­ity to take con­trol of their des­tiny as he moved to 50 in­ter­na­tional goals.

He said: “You’ve got to write your own script. I said to Tommy Rogic if you don’t take your mo­ment then I’m go­ing to take it. It’s a re­spon­si­bil­ity when I play. This is my pas­sion.

I will run to the end for this man­ager and these play­ers.”

Syria were miss­ing five key play­ers but that did not seem to im­pede their start as they went ahead when Tamer Mo­hamd dis­pos­sessed Mark Mil­li­gan and set up Al Soma to shoot high past Maty Ryan. It was their one bright spot in a half of al­most to­tal dom­i­na­tion by the hosts, who al­though en­joy­ing 80 per cent pos­ses­sion could not cap­i­talise.

The in­tro­duc­tion of Aaron Mooy after just 11 min­utes be­cause of in­jury to de­fender Brad Smith prompted a change in for­ma­tion but led to al­most one-way traffic.

Matthew Leckie, whose invit­ing right-wing cross was con­verted by Cahill, saw a close-range ef­fort on the half-hour blocked by Za­her Medane as Syria’s defence held on.

Early in the sec­ond half Leckie powered a header wide be­fore Ibrahim Alma saved well at his left­hand post to deny Celtic mid­fielder Tom Rogic, whose de­flected shot wide in the 90th minute was their last chance be­fore ex­tra-time.

Syria con­tin­ued to hang on – their task was made more dif­fi­cult by the dis­missal of Al Mawas for a sec­ond yel­low card – and Alma bril­liantly tipped over Nikita Rukavyt­sya’s near-post vol­ley at the end of the first pe­riod.

But de­spite get­ting his hand to the ball, the goal­keeper could not keep out Cahill’s sec­ond header.

There was still time for one dra­matic twist when Al Soma lined up a 30-yard free-kick in added time but his shot crashed against the post with the goal­keeper beaten.

Main Mane: The Liver­pool for­ward.

You can’t keep a good man down: Syria goal­keeper Ibrahim Alma stretches but can’t keep out Tim Cahill’s header.

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