October 27, 2018
There was a shock at Anfield as Cardiff City became the first opposition team to score a Premier League goal against Liverpool for 918 minutes. Otherwise, Jürgen Klopp’s team returned to the top of the table as a matter of routine; convincingly and without challenge. Neil Warnock was correct in his assertion that a Cardiff win here was impossible.
Sadio Mané scores twice as Liverpool ease past Cardiff on way to top
Mohamed Salah scored his 51st goal in 66 appearances for Liverpool and also provided two assists, for Xherdan Shaqiri and Sadio Mané, as the hosts cruised to the Premier League summit. Mané struck twice while Callum Paterson’s consolation for the visitors spoiled Alisson’s aims of a seventh clean sheet this term.
Liverpool enjoyed 86% possession and completed 412 passes to Cardiff’s 35 in a ridiculously one-sided first half where the only topic of note was their inability to add to Salah’s opener. Given the hosts’ complete dominance and the Egypt international’s remarkable goalscoring record at Anfield it was no surprise when he pounced to give Liverpool a 10th-minute lead, although it was out of context with Cardiff’s belligerent defensive display before the break.
Salah’s 33rd goal in 35 Anfield appearances stemmed from his alertness and the visitors’ failure to deal with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross from the right. The right-back’s delivery, having been teed up by Salah initially, was intercepted awkwardly by Sol Bamba who could only divert the ball into the path of Mané. His shot on the turn was blocked by Sean Morrison, Georginio Wijnaldum’s effort from the rebound was diverted across goal by Bamba and Salah reacted quickest to convert from close range with Morrison and Bruno Ecuele Manga floundering on the line.
Anfield sat back to enjoy the procession and captain for the day Virgil van Dijk almost obliged with a towering header from a Salah cross that kissed the far post before goalkeeper Neil Etheridge collected. But the procession took a while to materialise. True, Liverpool’s authority in the first half was almost absolute and at times it appeared Van Dijk and Dejan Lovren were passing the ball via Alisson just to keep their goalkeeper occupied. Roberto Firmino even managed to prevent a corner with a back-heel nutmeg – somehow while lying on the ground – while the body language of Cardiff’s forward players suggested they had taken Warnock’s comment about the impossible victory too literally. At least their defenders managed to give the impression that this was a contest and not a training exercise.
Sadio Mané scores twice as Liverpool ease past Cardiff on way to top
Etheridge was quick out of his box to deny Salah and Adam Lallana in quick succession when a Bamba mistake allowed Mané to release his fellow forward through on goal. Salah went down under a slight touch from Morrison when Alexander-Arnold played the keeper’s clearance back into the penalty area but referee Stuart Attwell was unmoved by the penalty appeals. Lallana thought he had doubled Liverpool’s lead in first-half stoppage time with a header from Alberto Moreno’s deep cross but Morrison was well placed to clear off the line.
Cardiff did work themselves into promising situations either side of the interval but lacked the quality and awareness to make the final ball count. They fell further behind when Firmino and Moreno combined to release Mané inside the area and both Manga and Víctor Camarasa made only lame attempts to challenge. The Senegal international punished their lethargy with a sweeping shot beyond Etheridge and into the far corner.
Remarkably, and completely out of context with the flow of the game, the visitors ended Liverpool’s and Alisson’s proud record of clean sheets in the league at Anfield this season when Callum Paterson reduced the deficit with 13 minutes remaining. Junior Hoilett’s low cross from the right deflected into the striker’s path off Van Dijk and Paterson gave Alisson no chance by prodding the ball home from close range. It was the first time Liverpool had conceded a Premier League goal at home for 918 minutes, since Michail Antonio netted for West Ham United in February. There would be no comeback.
Shaqiri, surprisingly dropped from the starting lineup for the anonymous Lallana, injected greater urgency into Liverpool’s performance and converted a fine third late on. Fabinho released Salah down the right, he picked out Shaqiri inside the area and the substitute cut inside two Cardiff defenders before stroking a calm finish inside the far post.
Liverpool’s fourth was equally impressive, with Salah again the provider. Collecting Mané’s pass deep inside the Cardiff half he read the striker’s mazy run to perfection and pierced the defence with a perfectly weighted ball that Mané clipped over the advancing Etheridge.
Sadio Mané scores twice as Liverpool ease past Cardiff on way to top
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