Liverpool forward Sadio Mane: "I never doubted myself"
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Liverpool forward Sadio Mane: "I never doubted myself"

Sadio Mane's hat-trick at FC Porto was the reward for his refusal to allow an indifferent run of form to get the better of him despite his constant critics as Liverpool secured a resounding 5-0 Champions League knockout stage first-leg lead.

Joshua Kerr

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane admits he could not stop smiling after becoming Liverpool's fourth player to hit a Champions League hat-trick as the Reds thrashed FC Porto 5-0 away from home at the Estádio do Dragão stadium.

Sérgio Conceição's are virtually dumped out of the competition with the Reds confident of sailing through to the last eight.

The Senegal international put Jürgen Klopp’s side in front early on and struck twice as well as goals from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino gave the Reds that vital first-leg cushion.

Their clinical exploits have given the Reds a commanding advantage ahead of the return tie on Merseyside next month, and Mane cannot get enough of playing in such a lethal attack.

Mane pleased to play with 'great players'

However, the 25-year-old was eager to spread praise to his teammates rather than himself.

“I’m always pleased to play with these great players,” he told BT Sport.

“Everybody talks about us three, but our teammates make it easier for us. Without the team we are nothing, they do a great job behind us. We’re lucky boys that we score all the time.

“Honestly, it was not an easy game, even though we scored five goals. The most important thing was to play as a team – and we did it.

“We played great football from the beginning until the end. We created so many chances and scored five, so it was deserved.”

Asked which of his three goals was most satisfying, Mane nominated the third – a confident smack into the bottom right corner from 20 yards that gave FC Porto goalkeeper José Sá no chance.

“It was a nice strike,” he added.

Welcome back Sadio

Mane's hat-trick at FC Porto was the reward for his refusal to allow a difficult spell of form to get the better of him.

Despite stunning strikes against Burnley and Manchester City in January, the Liverpool forward was not always at his sharpest – but continued to put in the hard yards in an effort to rediscover his best.

And his determination paid dividends in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie in Portugal as Mane registered an outstanding hat-trick to help the visitors triumph 5-0.

“I’m very happy,” the No.19 told after the final whistle at Estadio do Dragao.

“Sometimes it can happen in football and it wasn’t an easy time for me. But I never doubted [myself] because I know how I can help the team. I was always working hard.

“The performance of the whole team was great. We started the game quickly. We created many chances and scored five, that was the key and it was well deserved.”

Mane was joined on the scoresheet by his 'Fab Three" teammates Salah – who has already reached 30 for the season in all competitions – and Firmino who has been a standout performer for the Reds in recent weeks.

The forward also credited Liverpool’s attitude and application as the most key factor in humiliating a side who has only lost once in all competitions this season.

“I always enjoy playing alongside the boys in this team. We enjoy playing together – it’s the key for us,” he continued.

“There are no easy teams in this competition. We knew it would not be easy, so we tried to start fast and give our best from the beginning. We deserved to win.”