Liverpool beat Villarreal at the Estadio de la Ceramica 3-2 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate in the semifinals of the Champions League. A major part of the Reds’ success is the second-highest scorer in the history of the UCL knockout stages, Sadio Mane.
The Reds put in an excellent second-half performance to deny Villarreal another slaying of a European giant and stop their passage through to the final round of the Champions League. Going down by two early goals in the first half through Boulaye Dia (opening goal in the third minute) and Francis Coquelin (41st minute) set us up for a fantastic second half of European football.
An early change on the stroke of halftime saw Jurgen Klopp withdraw the invisible Diogo Jota for the game changer, Luis Diaz. Once the January signing made his way onto the pitch, the game’s momentum shifted in Liverpool’s favour.
Midfielder Fabinho started the scoring for Liverpool in the 62nd minute. Then the second was scored by the Man of the Match, Diaz, soon after in the 67th minute. Then came the final nail in Unai Emery’s coffin through Sadio Mane, the man in the discussion.
This goal was Mane’s second in the semifinals and across the two legs, having scored in the first leg as well. He has made it a habit to show up when Liverpool needs him most, hence the amazing milestone he has reached in this run.
Sadio Mane making history
Despite playing in a team filled with stars that include Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane is still setting trends of his own. Following his semifinal brace, Mane became the African player with the most goals scored in the Champions League knockout stages.
He has overtaken Chelsea legend, Didier Drogba, and has stayed ahead of his teammate Mo Salah with four more goals. Added to this milestone, the African powerhouse with his 15 UCL knockout goals, ranks second highest on the all-time top scorer’s list, only behind Karim Benzema with 16.
🌍 Top African scorers in the knockout stages (UCL era only):
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 3, 2022
Outstandingly, this will now be Mane’s fourth footballing final this season, having recently won the African Cup of Nations with Senegal; won the EFL Cup with Liverpool; and reached the finals of the FA Cup and Champions League with his Anfield squad.
List of Knockout games Mane has scored in this season:
- AFCON Round of 16 – Senegal 2-0 Cape Verde (1 goal)
- AFCON Semifinal – Senegal 3-1 Burkina Faso (1 goal)
- Champions League Quarterfinal – Benfica 1-3 (1 goal)
- FA Cup Semifinal – Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City (2 goals)
- Champions League Semifinal – Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal (1 goal)
- Champions League Semifinal – Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool (1 goal)
He is on top of his game and there is no surprise why most or some have put him ahead of Mohamed Salah to pick up the next Ballon d’Or award. Including his UCL semifinal brace against Villarreal over the two fixtures, he has scored seven goals in six knockout games, across all competitions this season.
He has also picked up two major trophies: the African Cup of Nations and the EFL Cup. All in all, Mane has now scored 21 goals and has three assists in 46 appearances, in all competitions for Liverpool this term. He is certainly the right man for any job currently.
Does he deserve a contract renewal? Undoubtedly so! Liverpool’s hierarchy must make it their top priority to renew his and other top players’ deals at the club.