Garth Crooks has hailed Fabinho for his match-winning turn in Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Burnley on Sunday - but has admitted that was left baffled by the decision to start Sadio Mane so soon after his AFCON exploits.
The Reds kept the gap between themselves and league leadersManchester City to nine points, albeit with a game in hand on Pep Guardiola’s men, thanks to a hard-fought display against the Clarets.
The clash would ultimately be decided by a single goal, with Fabinho converting from close range shortly before half-time.
And while Crooks was impressed with the Brazilian’s showing, he was left somewhat confused by Jurgen Klopp’s decision to include Mane so swiftly after his return from Senegal’s AFCON triumph.
Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “Whenever Liverpool need to dig out a result Fabinho always seems to be the man on hand to provide the grit and determination required.
“This result was not a foregone conclusion by any means and if Wout Weghorst had taken any of his chances the Reds might have come away from Burnley with nothing.
“Why Sadio Mane started this game, so soon after his exploits in the Africa Cup of Nations, is a mystery to me, especially as Diogo Jota is in such good form. If anyone needs a break Mane does.”
He added: “I don’t blame Mane in the slightest taking his time returning from Dakar after Senegal’s first Nations Cup triumph.”