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Liverpool star Sadio Mane joins select Anfield list after Champions League hat-trick
- Updated: February 16, 2018
SADIO MANE never doubted his form would return, and what a place for that to happen.
“I don’t know how to describe it but it can happen to every single player,” said Sadio Mane. “And in my mind I was relaxed that it will change.”
The Senegalese winger spoke in the aftermath of his superb hat-trick as Liverpool produced a stunning 5-0 away win against Porto in their Champions League last-16 tie.
Only a miracle will stop them progressing into the quarter-final stages after a first leg result which will send out a warning to the rest of Europe.
Mane had suffered a drop in form but how he put that right in Portgual when he became only the second Liverpool player after Michael Owen to score a hat-trick away from home in Europe.
“As a player sometimes it is not easy for me,” said Mane. “I never doubted myself as I knew I could help the team.
“I always tried to remain balanced, even when it was not working because it is my job and I have to do it. It was tough on me but it is part of football and can happen.”
Mane now has six goals in his last three Champions League appearances and 12 for the season.
That tally is just one shy of last season’s total when he missed a month of action because of the Africa Cup of Nations and six weeks out with a knee injury.
Next up for Mane and his teammates is a four-day training camp in Marbella before Premier League clashes with West Ham and Newcastle followed by the return leg with Porto.
Mane said: “We have more important games to come in the next couple of weeks so we will be ready for that.”
And captain Jordan Henderson insists Liverpool are greater than the sum of their parts and that is why they can absorb the loss of Philippe Coutinho.
So far Jurgen Klopp’s side have not truly missed the Brazil international since his £142million January move to Barcelona.
There may come a time when that is not true but his departure is being made easier by the individual and collective brilliance of 30-goal Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane.
“We still have a lot of quality players like Salah, Mane and Firmino who created chances,” said Henderson after the win in Porto.
“We knew we would create chances but it was about the team. It was a team performance.”
As pleasing as the five goals was the clean sheet, their fourth in seven games in the competition, was equally important as for only the second time since February 2011 Liverpool kept out opponents away from home for the third consecutive match.
The £75 million January arrival of Virgil van Dijk has contributed to that as the Dutchman brings an air of confidence and coolness to an often-nervy defence.
“Virgil has been brilliant since he has come in but again, the whole back four was very good,” said Henderson.
“The team defended from the front. We have to do that more often. I thought the lads, the whole team, were brilliant from start to finish. That should be normal for us.”