Daily Express


- By Tony Banks STEVE JUDGE


WHEN the names of this season’s top Premier League strikers are rolled out, Kane, Vardy, Aguero and Abraham most often trip off the tongue.

But for the team at the top of the league, the team seemingly running away with it – who no one seems able to stop even on an off day – it is Sadio Mane who is doing the business.

Ahead of both Mo Salah, on the bench at Selhurst Park nursing his niggling ankle problem, and Roberto Firmino, it is Mane’s dozen goals in all competitio­ns this season – and his remarkable 29 in 2019 in all – that are helping keep Liverpool’s noses well in front.

A player previously seen as erratic in front of goal has found his mojo – and luckily for Jurgen Klopp, he loves scoring against Palace. He now has eight in 10 games.

Good job too, because this was hardly vintage Liverpool. At times they were outplayed by Palace, whose tactical plan almost paid off, as they pinned back the Reds’ full-backs.

But, as teams who win titles do, the Reds found a way to win as Mane snaffled a crucial opener and

Firmino a late winner to keep up their unbeaten start to the campaign and their lead to eight points. Scotland defender Andy Robertson said: “This year Sadio has been fantastic. Even when I came he was amazing, but maybe did not have as much composure as he does now in front of goal. Now every time he is there you don’t think he will miss. “The chance he had at the start of the second half, we were surprised he didn’t score, and that is the type of player he is. Then he has popped up with another crucial goal. “It’s been a fantastic year for him and let’s hope he can keep going for a full season instead of a calendar year. The others pitch in as well, but he has taken his game to another level.

“For me, Sadio belongs in the top bracket in world football. People are giving him more credit and that is deserved. Our front three get talked about a lot. Bobby [Firmino] does not score as many as the other two but his workrate is second to none and if he did not do what he does, Sadio and Mo would not do what they do.”

Palace should have led but Jordan Ayew shot wide and then VAR ruled out James Tomkins’ header. Liverpool were sluggish.

Jordan Henderson suddenly slipped Mane away – and the little striker pulled his shot wide. Was it going to be one of those days? No. Tomkins, for the first time, missed Robertson’s cross, and Mane was there to scuff the ball in.

Palace rallied as the outstandin­g Andros Townsend went close and Luka Milivojevi­c, Christian Benteke and Jeffrey Schlupp all missed by inches.

Eventually they got it right, as Townsend slipped in Wilfried Zaha on 82 minutes but the celebratio­ns did not last long as Firmino stabbed home from a corner. Zaha blazed over to compound the heartbreak.

C PALACE (4-3-3): Guaita 7; Ward 6 (Kelly 70 6), Tomkins 6, Cahill 6, Van Aanholt 6; Kouyate 6 (Schlupp 74 6), Milivojevi­c 7, McArthur 6; Townsend 7, Ayew 6 (Benteke 75 6), Zaha 6. Goal: Zaha 82.

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 7; Alexander-Arnold 6, Van Dijk 7 (Gomez 90), Lovren 7, Robertson 7; Henderson 7 (Milner 79 6), Fabinho 7, Wijnaldum 6; Mane 8, Firmino 7, Oxlade-Chamberlai­n 7 (Origi 66 6).

Goals: Mane 49, Firmino 85.

BOURNEMOUT­H players were not surprised to see their boss Eddie Howe linked with the Tottenham job.

But this defeat against in-form Wolves illustrate­d why Jose Mourinho was the man who received the call.

Howe, below, got his tactics wrong by trying to match up with Wolves’ formation, though losing Josh King to a hamstring injury left him, well... hamstrung.

His failing was not acting the moment he saw things were not right, something Mourinho does without mercy. By the time Howe made his changes at half-time his side were two goals and a man down.

Joao Moutinho curled in a pearler of a free-kick to give Wolves a 21st-minute lead. Ten minutes later his quick thinking at a set-piece allowed Adama Traore to tee up Raul Jimenez.

Simon Francis’s first game for nearly a year after recovering from an ACL rupture was ended after 37 minutes when he was shown a second yellow for a second foul on Diogo Jota. Howe said: “We made a couple of mistakes tactically, which happens. It is so difficult to change because you’re playing at that moment. You’re hoping the players can get it right but we didn’t in the first half.”

Dan Gosling, in his first appearance since April as a second-half sub, said: “At half-time the lads took it upon themselves to sort it out.To put a tackle in, win a header. It was just a little extra effort.”

Bringing on Jeff Lerma helped and Steve Cook gave Bournemout­h hope, but it was in vain.

Wolves centre-back Conor Coady said: “The first half is the reference point of how we want to play moving forward.”

BOURNEMOUT­H (5-4-1): Ramsdale 6; Francis 4, S Cook 5, Ake 5, Smith 5, Rico 6; L Cook 6 (Gosling 76, 6), H Wilson 4 (Danjuma 46, 6), Billing 4 (Lerma 46, 6), Fraser 6; C Wilson 5. Sent off: Francis 37. Goal: S Cook 59.

WOLVES (5-2-3): Patricio 6; Doherty 6, Dendoncker 7, Coady 7, Saiss 7, Jonny 7; Neves 7, Moutinho 8; Traore 7, Jimenez 7, Jota 7 (Vinagre 89, 5).

Goals: Moutinho 21, Jimenez 31.

 ??  ?? WORLD BEATER Robertson rushes to congratula­te Mane after opener and, left, Firmino stabs home late winner
GOLD RUSH: Jimenez makes it 2-0 to Wolves
WORLD BEATER Robertson rushes to congratula­te Mane after opener and, left, Firmino stabs home late winner GOLD RUSH: Jimenez makes it 2-0 to Wolves
 ??  ?? VITAL: Firmino brings the best out of fellow strikers
VITAL: Firmino brings the best out of fellow strikers
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