Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has summed up Sadio Mane’s game-winning spell that took his side past Norwich on Saturday as “perfect”.
Mane, who left the field with a muscle problem against Wolves in January, had been in full training in the days leading up to the clash but was left on the bench at Carrow Road.
However, with Liverpool having huffed and puffed throughout the game due to Norwich’s well-set defence and the blustery conditions, Mane was sent on after an hour and scored the winner 18 minutes later.
Speaking after the game, Klopp revealed that he had initial concerns about starting Senegal international Mane, with one eye on Tuesday’s crunch Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid.
Klopp said: “It helps when you have such quality on the bench to bring on. Yes Sadio could have started today of course but I want to have a free decision for Tuesday.
“You don’t think they should play two games in such quick succession. The quality of the others is just too big that you have to push somebody through.
“It was perfect for Sadio to have a few minutes but it looked like he was ready, yes.”
Klopp was also relieved that his side were “much better” in the second half after a first half featuring few key moments.
“It’s easy to talk about the wind and things like that, but on the pitch the boys have to deal with it,” the manager said.
“We played for sure two, three, four long balls too many and the formation wasn’t prepared for that.
“So we weren’t there for the second balls. Our positioning was not exactly like it should have been.
“Once we changed in this specific formation, and (Todd) Cantwell reacting on him like man-marking.
“Then our midfield was sometimes surprised by the long balls of our centre-halves so didn’t push up early enough. It was obviously much better in the second-half.”
Tuesday’s first leg between Atletico and Liverpool will be played at the Wanda Metropolitano, where the Reds claimed their sixth European cup in June.