The Senegal attacker was withdrawn at the half-time break despite his side needing goals
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has explained why he decided to substitute Sadio Mane after just 45 minutes in the club’s 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first-leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.
A Saul Niguez goal in the fourth minute would prove enough for the hosts to claim a memorable win, with Klopp opting to withdraw one of his star attackers at the half-time break.
Despite scoring the winner against Norwich in the Premier League on Saturday, Mane was replaced by Divock Origi after a frustrating first-half that left the Reds manager adamant the change had to be made.
“He [Mane] was targeted. It was clear. They wanted to make sure he got a yellow card,” Klopp told BT Sport post-match.
“It is only half time but you need to be really strong as a referee in this atmosphere. Already in the first 30 minutes three of their players went to the ground I don’t know what for.
“Nobody to blame. I am fine, 1-0 down at half time we have the longest half time break and we will use that.
“We lacked in the final third. They defended with all they had – their defending in the box was incredible. When you are 1-0 down with a team like this who only want this kind of result – 0-0 would have been good for them.”
Liverpool in fact failed to attempt a single shot on target for only the second time in their 251 games under Klopp in all competitions, as Atletico’s defence held firm on home soil.
It was a performance Klopp expected from the Liga outfit as he stressed the tie was far from over ahead of next month’s second leg at Anfield.
“It was not exactly what should happen but it happened. It was the fight we expected and the atmosphere we expected but I love so many parts of our game,” Klopp said.
“It is only 1-0 down at half time and the second half we play out our stadium. Welcome to Anfield. It is not over yet.”
The Reds night was also soured by the sight of skipper Jordan Henderson being forced off late in the game with injury. Though Klopp is hopeful the injury isn’t anything serious.
“It was his hamstring which I hope was a precaution,” he said. “I am not 100 per cent sure but we will see.”
Liverpool next face West Ham at Anfield in the Premier League on Monday with the Reds currently 25 points clear of second-placed Manchester City, who do have a game in hand.