Sadio Mane announced his return to Premier League football in emphatic fashion with both goals in Liverpool’s brilliant 2-0 victory over top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
The Senegal forward provided one of several outstanding displays from a Liverpool side who had not previously won a league game in 2017, their worst start to a calendar year since 1954.
Liverpool effectively wrapped up the points, and ended their miserable start to the year, with two goals in three minutes from Mane early in the game.
They were the highlights of a sensational start by Liverpool, which made a mockery of the troubles that have plagued Jurgen Klopp’s side since the turn of the year.
The return of Mane from duty at the Africa Cup of Nations was also key to that dramatic improvement as the forward started a home game for the first time since New Year’s Eve.
Liverpool had already launched a number of lightning-fast counter-attacks when they finally took the lead after 16 minutes through exactly that tactic.
Georginio Wijnaldum played a magnificent through-ball down the middle of the park and Mane easily outpaced Ben Davies before beating Hugo Lloris with a confident 12-yard strike.
Anfield was electrified and the din from the goal celebrations had barely died down before the home supporters had another one to appreciate.
This time England international Eric Dier was at fault, caught in possession by Mane deep inside his own half, with the forward launching another devastating counter.
Mane slipped the ball square to Adam Lallana, whose first shot was parried by Lloris.
The Spurs goalkeeper recovered well to keep out Roberto Firmino’s follow-up attempt, but he could do nothing as Mane showed great technique to hook a shot into the roof of the goal from eight yards.