Liverpool reclaimed the top spot in the Premier League table as they beat Cardiff City 2-0, courtesy of goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner.
Liverpool started the game strongly, but could not make their early dominance count. Roberto Firmino had the first big chance of the game halfway through the first half, but the Brazilian fired his effort over the bar, after some neat interplay between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to create the opportunity.
Salah seemed to have opened the scoring for the visitors after beating Bruno Ecuele Manga and striking a low effort at goal, but the Egyptian’s effort was kept out by some fine goalkeeping by Cardiff City keeper Neil Etheridge. With half-time approaching, the hosts almost managed to score against the run of play, but Oumar Niasse’s volley was tipped over the bar by Alisson.
Liverpool finally managed to break the deadlock in the second period, when Georginio Wijnaldum unleashed a rocket of a strike after a smart corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Reds should have been 2-0 up soon after, but captain Jordan Henderson missed a sitter after being played in by Mane.
WE. KEEP. GOING. 👊
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 21, 2019
The miss almost came back to bite Liverpool when Cardiff skipper Sean Morrison had the chance to head home the equaliser with the goal gaping, but the centre-back made a mess of the chance, handing the Reds a reprieve. With ten minutes left, Morrison appeared to have brought down Salah in the box and James Milner stepped up to dispatch the resulting penalty to seal the result.
The win fires Liverpool back on top of the table, after Manchester City had usurped the spot following their 1-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday. Here is how we rated the performances of Jurgen Klopp’s players against Cardiff.
Alisson Becker: 6.5/10
A spectator for most parts of the game, the Brazilian pulled off a fine save to deny Niasse on the cusp of half-time. Flapped at a Joe Ralls corner after the break, which almost led to an equaliser, only for Morrison to miss the chance. It was Alisson’s 19th clean sheet of the season, putting him firmly ahead of compatriot Ederson in the race for the Golden Glove.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6/10
A difficult outing for the England international who was troubled to a large extent by the pace of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing in the first period, which seemed to curb his forward forays. Improved after the break though and got the assist for the opening goal with a smart corner.
Joel Matip: 8/10
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) April 21, 2019
A colossal performance at the heart of the Liverpool defence by the Cameroonian. Dug his heels in and fought hard against the array of high balls Cardiff kept pumping in. Defended well against the physical Niasse and showed great purpose and composure when on the ball, driving his team forward to help launch attacks.
Often flies under the radar with Virgil van Dijk usually dominating the headlines, but it has been a strong second half of the season for Matip.
Virgil van Dijk: 8/10
Another dominant display from the Dutchman as he won his aerial duels with little fuss and kept things tight and well-organised at the back for Liverpool. One strong challenge on Niasse was a stand-out moment as van Dijk enhanced his credentials for the PFA Player of the Year award.
Andrew Robertson: 6.5/10
Came up with a key block early in the first half when Junior Hoilett had gotten into a dangerous position and defended resolutely for the entire game. Wasn’t his usual self going forward though as his end product was off the mark on the day.
Jordan Henderson: 7/10
Back into the starting XI after being benched for the midweek game against Porto, the Liverpool captain seems to be relishing the new advanced role that he has been given in the past few matches. Drove forward with purpose every time he got the ball and fashioned a few opportunities for his teammates.
Should have made it 2-0 after being found by Mane, but scooped his effort over. Nevertheless, another strong display from Henderson.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 8/10
Featuring as the defensive midfielder for Liverpool in Fabinho’s absence, the Dutchman was a solid presence on the field as he was alert to stop any danger Cardiff posed on the counter and showed great calmness and composure to keep the Reds on the front-foot in midfield. Got the opening goal with a fierce strike in the second half. Seems well-suited to the No. 6 role.
Naby Keita: 7/10
Another confident showing from the Guinean midfield dynamo, who seems to be improving with every passing game. Always looking to get on the ball, Keita drove at the Cardiff backline with intent when in possession and got into dangerous positions regularly. Won the ball back and found Mane, leading to the second-half chance for Henderson, before being subbed off for Fabinho.
Mohamed Salah: 7/10
A threat to the Cardiff defence all game long with his pace, but the Egyptian couldn’t always make the hosts pay. Combined well with Mane to create a chance for Firmino and then saw his shot being saved by Etheridge after being played in by Henderson. Wasted a couple of promising opportunities on the counter but won the penalty in the second half that proved to be crucial for Liverpool.
Roberto Firmino: 7/10
Should have done better in the first period with just the goalkeeper to beat, but Firmino ended up firing his shot high and wide. That did not affect his confidence though, as he helped knit play constantly by dropping deep and finding pockets of space. Once again, the Brazilian’s work-rate was astonishing.
Sadio Mane: 7.5/10
Did very well to set Firmino up for a chance early on and was a lively presence in the final third. Failed to connect neatly with an Alexander-Arnold cross and saw another effort miss narrowly after the break. Found Henderson with a clever cutback, but the captain failed to make it count. May not have scored or assisted but Mane was once again Liverpool’s most dangerous attacker.
Replaced Keita with twenty minutes left, but lasted just four minutes on the field after a head injury from a collision with Kenneth Zohore forced him off the field.
James Milner: 7/10
Scored the all important second goal with a cool and calm penalty – his seventh goal of the campaign.
Joe Gomez: N/A
Late substitute for Alexander-Arnold as Klopp eases him back into action.