Liverpool pranced to the top of the Premier League this Saturday as the Reds beat Cardiff City 3-1 to continue the Merseysiders impressive form. The game was one of two halves with Liverpool effectively winning the game inside the first forty-five minutes to set up a rather dull and less energetic second half. The result also means that Liverpool have won four games on the bounce – the first time this has happened this season.
The game started with Cardiff giving as good as they were getting. The Welsh team held Liverpool for the opening twenty-five minutes and it seemed patience would be the key to Rodgers’ team getting their much needed three points. During that initial period it was actually Cardiff who struck with the first effort, Mutch and Noone combining to put Noone into a one vs one situation with Sakho; the Frenchman succeeded in slowing the winger down but Mignolet was still forced into a decent stop to deny Mackay’s men a precious opening goal.
The home side eventually broke the deadlock in the twenty-fifth minute as Suárez started and finished a great Liverpool move to take his season’s tally to eighteen goals in twelve appearances. The Uruguayan passed the ball into the feet of Joe Allen who turned it to Henderson who had made a forward run into the left hand side of the box. Emphasising his confidence and improving quality, Henderson chipped a delicious ball into the path of the now central Suarez who volleyed home from eighteen yards – Marshall had no chance as the ball flew into his bottom right hand corner.
A theme for the day emerged on the thirty minute mark as Steven Caulker wrestled with Martin Škrtel inside the Liverpool penalty area. The Slovakian did his level best to give away a penalty but there was none forthcoming from the officials who waved away the young defender’s angry protests. Cardiff were almost two down minutes later when Philippe Coutinho smashed the near post with a curling right footed strike from a very acute angle – the imagination on the shot was impressive but it wasn’t to be. Liverpool continued to look for the elusive second goal and Škrtel headed over from an impressive Jon Flanagan cross before Flanagan himself struck the post from a tight angle, the ball was rolling across the line until Marshall deflected it away with his legs to prevent the young full-back scoring his second in two games. Liverpool’s dominance was finally rewarded when Henderson sent a beautiful outside of the foot pass over the barebones Cardiff defence which put Suárez clean through on goal. In the form of his life, Suárez would have been expected to roll the ball beyond Marshall and put Liverpool 2-0 to the good, but in a moment of true team spirit, the South American striker poked the ball to his right where Raheem Sterling was waiting to receive an easy tap-in. Suárez seems to have grown even greater since he was made stand-in captain for the injured Steven Gerrard and this was a great sign for Liverpool fans that he’s playing for the team, not just himself.
Liverpool were purring and they put the game beyond Cardiff when Suárez curled a first time shot into the far corner to put childish smiles on the faces of all Liverpool supporters. The goal was made all the sweeter with Jordan Henderson executing his second important back heel in under a week – his flick was hit first time by Suárez giving the young Englishman his second assist of the game. With the game effectively won at half time, the Reds took their foot off the gas quite badly and it looked at times as if Cardiff might find a way back into the game, despite the unlikelihood. The Reds continued to attack but Henderson and Allen were seemingly playing that little bit deeper and the pressing game which saw Cardiff struggle in the first half was gone. Cardiff dampened the Anfield buzz slightly when they recorded a goal of their own through a powerful and well placed Mutch header after atrocious Liverpool marking left him free at the back post following Whittingham’s delicious cross.
For a while after that goal it looked as if Cardiff might mount a serious attempt at challenging Liverpool for the three points but the chances wouldn’t fall for the Welsh side despite some very good set pieces finding their way into the Liverpool area – Martin Škrtel continued his efforts to concede a penalty or a goal by consistently not looking at the ball as the set pieces flew in; Caulker came close at least once. Liverpool came close once more fifteen minutes from time when Raheem Sterling broke through before being denied by Marshall, the follow-up from Suárez struck the post and rebounded away, only for Suárez to catch the ball whilst it was seemingly still in play – mystifyingly, a goal kick was given despite the obvious foul.
Overall, the game was dominated by Liverpool and the amount of possession pretty much tells the story. Cardiff threatened whenever they got themselves a set piece within Liverpool’s half but from open play they were pretty much toothless except for Noone’s early strike from twenty yards out.
Jordan Henderson and Luis Suárez were the stand-out performers for Liverpool. Flanagan was also impressive but his afternoon was cut short when Rodgers introduced the returning Martin Kelly midway through the second half. Allen and Lucas controlled the midfield well but the Welshman found himself wasting promising openings when caught in two minds about what to do.
Man of the Match – Luis Suárez