Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane finally win a domestic cup with Liverpool

Sadio Mane VI Images via Getty Images

Two of Senegal 's Africa Cup of Nations heroes -- Sadio Mane and Edouard Mendy -- met in the Carabao Cup final as Liverpool defeated Chelsea after a protracted penalty shootout, while Nigerian duo Taiwo Awoniyi and David Okereke were also among the goals in Europe's other big leagues.

The Carabao Cup final at Wembley brought together two sides hoping for a major honours haul this season, and, of course, some of Africa's biggest names.

Mendy, Trevoh Chalobah and in-form Hakim Ziyech -- fresh from winning the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi -- started for Chelsea as they sought to put their on-field quality back to the forefront of public discussion after owner Roman Abramovich announced on Saturday that he was handing "stewardship and care" of the club over to charitable foundation trustees.

Mane, defeated AFCON finalist Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Joel Matip started for Liverpool, with Ibrahima Konate introduced as the final headed to extra-time. Keita, whose Nations Cup was curtailed by a yellow card picked up in Guinea's final group game, was an unexpected inclusion in the starting XI after Thiago Alcantara picked up an injury in the warm-up.

And he was one of several Liverpool players denied by Mendy, who produced another outstanding display.

Mane surely thought he'd opened the scoring in the first half on the rebound only for his compatriot to pull off the save of the day.

"I think that's as good as anything I've seen anywhere at any level at any time, honestly," ex-Scotland striker Ally McCoist said on talkSPORT's commentary.

"His first save, where he gets down to his right-hand side, is a great save, but how he gets up and makes the second save from Mane is absolutely remarkable."

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Matip -- another veteran of the 2020 Premier League-winning squad -- had an effort disallowed by VAR in the second half when Virgil van Dijk was deemed to have been offside, and Mendy then denied Salah, who was played in one-on-one with the keeper in a repeat of a scenario in the AFCON final.

Mendy's form vindicated Thomas Tuchel's decision to start the AFCON Goalkeeper of the Tournament ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga -- who had started in every previous round -- in the Wembley showpiece.

But Tuchel opted to twist as the compelling contest headed towards penalties, replacing Man of the Match contender Mendy with Kepa as he had done in the UEFA Super Cup final, in which the Spaniard saved two penalties to hand the Blues the title.

This choice was less clear-cut, with Mendy coming off a series of big contributions as Senegal defeated Salah's Egypt on penalties in the AFCON final, and Tuchel's call didn't work out.

Kepa didn't save any of Liverpool's spot-kicks during the marathon shootout, and then sent his own jittery effort over the bar as the Blues' bid for further silverware in 2022 came to a shuddering halt.

"It [was] a rubbish idea," Jamie Redknapp said in the Sky Sports studio at full-time. "I think it is a case of being too clever for your own good, it just complicated it. How could anyone say they wouldn't have won it if Mendy was in goal? It's rubbish, it's nonsense, [Kepa] didn't even get near to a penalty. Mendy's one of the world's best goalkeepers, and then you bring on Kepa instead, ridiculous."

Tuchel partly agreed with Redknapp's suggestion, but insisted that he -- and not his substitute goalkeeper - took the blame for Chelsea's failure to bring home the cup.

"We don't know what would've happened if we left Mendy on the pitch," he said.

"No blame on Kepa. Blame on me as I'm the guy who takes the decisions."

Mendy made little secret of his frustration at the final whistle, as Kepa's penalty sailed over the bar, but his international teammate Mane celebrated once again as he and Salah won their first domestic cup with Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's decision to replace the visibly displeased Mane with Diogo Jota with 10 minutes to play, while keeping irrepressible new boy Luis Diaz on the pitch, may, nevertheless, add some weight to the increasing sense that the Senegal superstar isn't set to be as influential in Liverpool's future as he has been in their past.

In the Premier League this weekend, Jeffrey Schlupp scored for Crystal Palace in their 1-1 home draw with Burnley, with Michael Olise chipping in with the assist. No player in the Premier League aged 21 or under has registered more than Olise's five assists this term.

Didier Drogba, meanwhile, was rubbed from the Premier League record books as Harry Kane and Son Heung-min combined for a top-flight goal for the 37th time in their Spurs career. That goal in Tottenham Hotspur's 4-0 victory against Leeds United saw them become the most potent duo in the league's history, replacing Drogba and Frank Lampard, who assisted one another for 36 goals during their decorated stints at Chelsea.

Across the rest of Europe, it was a strong weekend for Nigerian attackers, with Awoniyi and Okereke netting for Union Berlin and Venezia respectively.

Awoniyi met a cross to bag his 10th German Bundesliga goal of the season, having failed to score in six matches since early December. He did score for Nigeria in in the interim -- in their 3-1 Africa Cup of Nations victory over Sudan, and will now be hoping to return to the club form that resulted in seven goals in six appearances across September and October.

Okereke is similarly enjoying a breakout year in a top-five European league, and he took his tally to the campaign for six with a late effort in Venezia's 3-1 defeat at rivals Hellas Verona.

The Club Brugge loanee's goal haul could boost his prospects of forging a place in the Super Eagles squad, but his current employers need more in the coming weeks if they are to escape the Serie A dropzone.

Also in the Italian flight -- and on a Nigerian theme -- there were no goals for Victor Osimhen in Napoli's away clash at Lazio, although their 2-1 Lorenzo Insigne-inspired victory took them up to top spot in the standings.