Koe­man eu­phoric as Mane dents Liverpool’s chal­lenge

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The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL - By Tom Pren­tki at St Mary’s

The most sur­pris­ing sight here was not Liverpool los­ing a two-goal lead at a ground where they had won 6-1 three months ear­lier but Ron­ald Koe­man rac­ing down the touch­line to join the col­lec­tive em­brace of his play­ers af­ter Sa­dio Mane’s late win­ner.

The Dutch­man, 53 to­day, is known for his placid de­meanour in the Southamp­ton tech­ni­cal area but he was un­able to con­tain his glee af­ter watch­ing his play­ers up­set the odds. “It’s the first time and I think it’s the last time,” he said of his cel­e­bra­tion. “I’m still tired. To­mor­row it’s my birth­day and to­day I get the best present.”

Mane joined the fray only at half­time but there was still time for him to miss a penalty and score twice to sweep away Liverpool’s lead.

The Sene­galese had not scored since that 6-1 League Cup de­feat but was el­i­gi­ble to play here af­ter hav­ing his red card at Stoke over­turned, though Koe­man chose in­stead to leave him on the bench.

“That was the Sa­dio we like,” said Koe­man of the for­mer Red Bull Salzburg for­ward. “Sa­dio had a dif- fi­cult time the last few weeks so I hope it gives the boy a boost, his per­for­mance.”

It’s a de­feat which leaves Jürgen Klopp’s side seven points off the Cham­pi­ons League places, a com­pe­ti­tion they can surely now only qual­ify for by win­ning the Europa League. “Twenty-seven points still to get. If we get all of them, there’s a chance,” he smiled.

Liverpool had looked in com­plete con­trol af­ter a breath­tak­ing five-minute spell put them two up at half-time.

An­other mo­ment of bril­liance from Philippe Coutinho changed the mo­men­tum of the game as he cut in from the left to curl a won­der­ful strike past Fraser Forster.

Five min­utes later, Di­vok Origi tore past the be­mused Jose Fonte to feed Daniel Stur­ridge who feigned to shoot and then clin­i­cally did so, low into the bot­tom left cor­ner. It was his fourth goal in three starts against Southamp­ton and sev­enth in to­tal this sea­son.

It ought to have been even bet­ter for Liverpool. Forster saved su­perbly at point-blank range from Joe Allen be­fore Allen had a goal ruled out with Ma­madou Sakho ad­judged to have im­peded Forster from an off­side po­si­tion.

Be­fore that, Southamp­ton had started well and were in­censed when Roger East re­fused to award Shane Long a penalty af­ter the Ir­ish­man ap­peared to be shoved over

by for­mer Saint De­jan Lovren, who was be­ing booed with ev­ery touch on his re­turn to St Mary’s.

“In my opin­ion it’s 100 per cent a penalty,” said Koe­man. The Croa­t­ian cen­tre-back was booked soon af­ter­wards for lung­ing at Long and, feel­ing he was in dan­ger of a red card, Klopp re­placed him with Martin Skr­tel at the break.

The Slovakian en­dured a mis­er­able se­cond-half up against Graziano Pelle and con­ceded a penalty for pulling the Ital­ian’s shirt five min­utes af­ter the break.

Mane struck the ball firmly to the left cor­ner of Si­mon Mig­no­let but the Bel­gian saved su­perbly to seem­ingly ex­tin­guish any hope of points for Southamp­ton. “We had a great spirit,” said Koe­man. “The whole per­for­mance in the se­cond half was per­fect.” It was a spirit em­bod­ied by Pelle and Mane, with the Ital­ian at­tempt­ing a se­ries of com­pli­cated and un­nec­es­sary flicks in a poor first half. “I wasn’t happy with his per­for­mance in the first half. He said ‘yes, I need to be bet­ter in the se­cond half ’.”

He was, set­ting up both of Mane’s goals and scor­ing an ex­cel­lent one of his own. The come­back started as Mane latched on to Pelle’s pass, shrugged off Sakho and fin­ished crisply past Mig­no­let. A clever touch from Long then prompted Pelle to un­leash a won­der­ful left­foot drive from the edge of the area to make it 2-2. The Italy in­terna- tional looked close to tears. Fol­low­ing his two goals at Stoke, it was the first time Pelle has scored in con­sec­u­tive games since Septem­ber 2014.

There was still time for Pelle to again feed Mane who fin­ished low into the right-hand cor­ner to send Koe­man into delir­ium.

Klopp de­scribed his over-rid­ing emo­tion as “frus­tra­tion” rather than “anger” but Liverpool have now lost the most points from win­ning po­si­tions in the Premier League this year. “I’m not that good a loser so I don’t feel bril­liant but it’s foot­ball,” said the Ger­man.

“I saw a very very good first half. Se­cond half, Southamp­ton de­served the points.”

Saint and sin­ner: Saido Mane gets past Ma­madou Sakho to score the win­ner

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