Liverpool dig deep to move top with Cardiff win
Cardiff City Stadium, Premier League - Cardiff City 0 Liverpool 2 (Wijnaldum 57, Milner 81'(p.))
Strikes from Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner were enough for Liverpool to beat a stubborn Cardiff side 2-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Having seen Manchester City move to the top of the league by beating Tottenham on Saturday, the pressure was on for Liverpool against a reinvigorated Cardiff – themselves desperate for points to stave off relegation.
The visitors monopolised possession in the first half but Roberto Firmino missed the most presentable chance, sending the match to the interval at parity.
The start of the second half followed a similar pattern to that of the first, but just as it looked like it could be a frustrating afternoon for Jurgen Klopp’s men, Wijnaldum stole in with 57 minutes on the clock to slot a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner past Neil Etheridge.
James Milner would put the result beyond any doubt in the 81st minute when he converted from the spot after Mohamed Salah had been felled in the box, leaving the Reds two points ahead of City having played a game more, with Cardiff still three points from safety in 18th.
That was Liverpool’s 20th goal from a set piece this season, seven more than anyone else, but they were almost undone from a set piece down the other end, however captain Sean Morrison missed the ball completely with an open goal at his mercy, with that miss proving pivotal as Mr Reliable Milner was on hand to convert the late penalty to seal Liverpool’s ninth successive win and put the pressure back on City.
Mohamed Salah of Liverpool wins a penalty after being fouled by Sean Morrison of Cardiff City during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Liverpool FC at Cardiff City Stadium on April 21, 2019 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Getty Images
Liverpool remain on course for 97 points, which still might not be enough. Manchester City and Liverpool have not just been better than the rest this season, but they are both streets ahead of the chasing pack. The problem for Liverpool is City just will not relent. 97 points would be enough to win the title every other Premier League season other than the last. Liverpool could, in fact, finish second having lost just one game all season. City have simply raised the bar to unprecedented levels.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jordan Henderson . Liverpool have been more fluid on several occasions this season, but they had to dig in south Wales, and nobody epitomised that desire to get the three points more than their captain. No player won possession on more occasion than Henderson, who seemed to be everywhere for the cause.
James Milner of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team's second goal with teammate Jordan Henderson during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Liverpool FC at Cardiff City Stadium on April 21, 2019 in Cardiff, United Kingdom.Getty Images
Liverpool: Alisson 6, Alexander-Arnold 6, Matip 8, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 6, Henderson 8, Wijnaldum 7, Keita 7, Mane 7, Salah 7, Firmino 6... Subs: Gomez N/A, Milner 7, Fabinho N/A.
22’ - MISS!!! What a chance for Firmino, after being picked out by a superb Mane threaded pass, but the Brazilian blazes over the top with the goal at his mercy.
30’ - CHANCE! Great cross from Alexander-Arnold into the near post for Mane, but the Liverpool forward fires over from close range. Came at him quickly but should really have done better.
34’ - SAVE! Huge opportunity again for Liverpool, with Salah, after a sumptuous turn, denied by the outstretched leg of Etheridge. Again, had to do better.
57’- GOOOOOOALLLLLL!!! Cardiff 0-1 Liverpool. There it is, at last, and it comes via the surprise right foot of Gini Wijnaldum! What a time to score your third goal of the season! The corner from Alexander-Arnold seemed underhit, but Wijnaldum darted to the near post before firing an unstoppable low shot into the net. Fine finish.
62’ - CHAAAAAANNCE!!! Huge opportunity to put this game to bed, with Mane picking out Henderson, who is all alone, eight yards out, but the Liverpool skipper blazes over!
64’ - MISS!!!! Alisson comes out to claim a corner, completely misses it, Morrison is there, two yards out, with an open goal at his mercy, but misses the ball completely and the ball flashes across goal and out for a goal kick. Will Cardiff get a better opportunity than that?
80' - PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL! Salah takes a tumble under challenge from Morrison and the referee points to the spot. Very soft indeed.
81' - GOOOOOOAAALLL! Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool. Ice cool from Milner as he steps up to send Etheridge the wrong way to make sure of the three points.
Cardiff players surround referee Martin Atkinson after he awarded a penalty to Liverpool during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Liverpool FC at Cardiff City Stadium on April 21, 2019 in Cardiff, United Kingdom.Getty Images
- Liverpool have now amassed 88 points in the league this season, their best ever total in a Premier League season; adjusting to three points for a win, they have only earned more in a top-flight campaign in 1978-79 (98) and 1987-88 (90).
- This was Cardiff City’s 10th home league defeat of the season, their most in a single season since 1994-95 in the third-tier, when they lost 12 and were relegated.
- The top six teams have won all 33 of their Premier League matches versus the current bottom three teams in the table this season. This is a top-flight record; surpassing 30 wins in such games in 1891-92, 1978-79, 1985-86, 2001-02, 2011-12 & 2013-14.
- Liverpool have now won nine consecutive matches in all competitions, their longest winning streak since April 2014 under Brendan Rodgers (also nine games) – a run which also included a victory away at Cardiff.
- Cardiff have now lost each of their four Premier League matches against Liverpool, conceding 15 goals in all, more than they have against any other opponent in the competition.
- Georginio Wijnaldum's goal for Liverpool was just his second to be scored away from home in the Premier League, with the other 19 all coming in home games.