Reds could be without Mane for six weeks
Australian forward’s extra-time winner ends Qasioun Eagles’ remarkable qualification run
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.