Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace: Mane strikes twice to take Reds into Champions League
Goals in each half from Sadio Mane helped the Reds spoil former boss Roy Hodgson’s final game in management and claim a place in the top four that looked like a distant dream just a few weeks ago.
There was also an emotional farewell for Georginio Wijnaldum, who, with his contract expiring in the coming days, looks to have played his final game for the club.
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Liverpool’s returning fans were given an early scare when a loose Trent Alexander-Arnold pass inadvertently played in Andros Townsend, who should have done better than to miss the target in a one-v-one situation.
But that let-off sparked the hosts into life, with Rhys Williams heading a corner over before Mohamed Salah stung Vicente Guaita’s palms and Mane missed the target from a promising position in quick succession.
The latter in particular looked to be re-energised by the return of supporters, and so it was no surprise to see him react first to toe home a Williams corner flick-on that had bounced off Roberto Firmino.
Mane’s strike proved sufficient to give the Reds the lead at the end of a half that was extended by head injuries to both of their centre-backs – perhaps fitting in the context of their season.
Having no doubt learned at half-time that results elsewhere were going in their favour, Liverpool prioritised control over the desperate search for a second goal.
But they were not finding it too difficult to get into dangerous positions, and eventually grabbed a deserved second as Salah picked out Mane to fire one in off Gary Cahill.
That goal was followed by emotional scenes as Wijnaldum left the pitch to a huge ovation after playing a typically understated by crucial role in another important win for Liverpool.
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