Liverpool 4 - 1 Cardiff City
Liverpool: Mohamed Salah 10’, Sadio Mané 66’ & 87’, Xherdan Shaqiri 84’
Cardiff City: Callum Paterson 77’
Jürgen Klopp opted for the same formation from Wednesday’s Champions league fixture against Red Star Belgrade, going for a 4-2-3-1 with three changes in the starting line-up as Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson and Xherdan Shaqiri made way for Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana.
We are in the month of October and akin to last season, our midweek Champions League fixture appears to have pushed our Premier League campaign into a higher gear from a goalscoring perspective. Our 0 – 7 win away at Maribor on 17 October 2017 was the catalyst for our front three’s goal exploits last season as we subsequently went on a goal rampage in the Premier League which began with our 4 – 1 win at Anfield against Tottenham on 22 October 2017.
Although it was practically expected that Liverpool would annihilate Cardiff on Saturday with even Neil Warnock conceding that it was virtually impossible for any team to beat the Reds, they certainly made things seem rather tough at times in their eighth PL win of the season. At two minutes in, Cardiff’s Callum Paterson went down seemingly injured after competing with Moreno for a high ball and by five minutes in, the Bluebirds were already sitting deep and had dropped into a 5-3-1-1 with nine players behind the ball as Liverpool began pushing their way up the pitch. Despite Cardiff’s attempts at defending, at nine minutes Mané had his first shot blocked, followed by another block against Wijnaldum’s attempt and then just like that, Salah appeared, seemingly out of nowhere and blasted in his fifth PL goal of the season. Virgil van Dijk came very close to heading in a second goal almost immediately afterward, but it bounced back out off the post with Cardiff goalkeeper, Neil Etheridge subsequently halting Salah from scoring again. As the match went on, Cardiff’s struggles were evident and they barely managed to cope against Liverpool’s incessant pressing. From a spectator point of view though, Liverpool’s efforts in being unnecessarily detailed, especially in the final third, grew tiresome and it seemed that Anfield had been lulled into a trance-like state by the time the first half had ended with Lallana’s diving header being cleared off by Sean Morrison. It had been a one-sided affair of note by the time the half time whistle blew, as Liverpool had 86% of the possession, completing 412 passes in comparison to Cardiff’s 34, with the Bluebirds failing to have a single touch in Liverpool’s box.
First Half Score: Liverpool 1 – 0 Cardiff
The second half began with Cardiff actually getting the ball and maintaining the hold of it but not doing much else with it other than causing Liverpool’s midfielders and defenders to work extra hard to keep things one sided. By the time 50 minutes rolled around, Cardiff looked a rejuvenated side as Josh Murphy won a free-kick, crossing it into the area as Liverpool defended with a high-line and Morrison sent the header back into the area, right into goal for a moment but, alas, it was offside.
Liverpool subsequently appeared to drop off just a tad and Cardiff finally found their way into the game, managing to get the ball into advanced areas. At 62’, Adam Lallana who lacked the required sharpness, was substituted, making way for the effervescent Shaqiri - who would go on to be the needed talisman for the Reds in the second half. 66 minutes in saw Sadio Mané fire in a power shot bringing the scoreline to a more appropriate 2 – 0 and at 68 minutes, the referee decided that Salah had fouled someone in the box and handed Cardiff a free kick. At 71 minutes, Roberto Firmino was substituted with James Milner, as Liverpool proceeded to just pass the ball around in their own half for more than a few minutes. The eerie silence from the crowd was evidently a calm before a brief storm as a cross deflected off Van Dijk finding Paterson; who somehow managed to touch the ball before Alisson could and just like that Liverpool’s home run of consecutive clean sheets came to an end at nine, with the side unable to break the PL record.
The Cardiff comeback managed to rouse not only the crowd but the team as well as Liverpool took hold of the possession and were back to their relentless selves. At 84 minutes, after Salah’s pass reached him in the middle of the box, Shaqiri struck home his first Liverpool PL goal with Sadio Mané following it up with a Salah-assisted goal two minutes later in the 86th minute. With three minutes of added time, Liverpool continued to pass the ball among themselves and as the second minute of injury time drew to a close Salah made one last attempt, with a halfway line shot and brought the match to a close. Job done by Liverpool and yet not even close to their absolute best, they still looked pretty damn good by the end of it all.
Despite Salah’s goal and his two assists garnering him the man of the match, and Sadio Mané’s two goals, Shaqiri was the difference maker and thusly, definitely my favourite player in this one.
Liverpool ended the game on 80% possession and are now in first place on the table with 26 points while Manchester City are set to play Spurs on Monday night. Knowing that Liverpool can still improve as a squad, it is truly a fantastic time to be a Red, and now, the final score finally feels awesome too!