Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were below par during Liverpool's UEFA Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. The Reds were beaten 1-0 by the Spanish champions at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, courtesy of a second-half strike from Vinicius Junior.
Manager Jurgen Klopp's side were statistically the more dominant side, mustering 24 shots (six times more than Real Madrid) and keeping 54% possession. However, they failed to find the back of the net. That's because Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was in the form of his life, making a record nine saves to thwart Liverpool in a 'Man of the Match' performance.
Courtois kept out Salah a few times and drew an incredible save off Mane in the first half too. Wenger believes that's why the Liverpool talismen were underwhelming on the night. Speaking on beIN Sports, the Frenchman said (via Liverpool Echo):
“You felt as well that Salah, Mane, the guys who make the difference, didn't have the same freshness, the same belief that they can make the difference. Overall they came short, we must be honest, because of Courtois.
“I felt at some stage that if Liverpool came back to 1-1, they'd come back and win the game. But they never found that special moment where they could finish their chances off, and a lot of that is down to Courtois.”
Salah and Mane have both had fabulous seasons individually. The Egyptian scored 31 goals and made 16 assists from 51 games, while Mane scored 23 goals and made five assists from as many appearances.
However, neither could step up against Madrid on the night, drawing a blank as the Reds sunk to another European final defeat. More importantly, the loss diminishes the duo's Ballon d'Or chances, with Whites striker Karim Benzema now firmly in the driving seat to win this year's Golden Ball.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois showed why he's the best
Thibaut Courtois was widely labelled as the worst signing of the 2018-19 season after joining Real Madrid from Chelsea.
However, except for a tough debut campaign, he has been at the top of his game, but his performance on Saturday was one of the best of his career. In a clash of two highly talented attacks, it was Courtois who ended up being the star performer. reaffirming his status as among the best custodians in the world.