Liverpool looked at the radiant Easter sun in South Wales and did not blink. If Manchester City wins the Premier League title this season, they have to do so in the background of their own excellence.
That City defends their title still looks more than likely. If anyone really expects Manchester United to do his old Merseyside rivals a favor when they host City on Wednesday night, they have clearly not seen the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer team recently.
So for Liverpool there can still be disappointment, but if they lose it they might as well do it. On the front foot, creating opportunities, scoring goals, winning matches.
Substitute James Milner moved up to score from the penalty spot and double Liverpool's lead in South Wales
The midfielder kept his guts and steered the goalkeeper in the wrong way after Mohamed Salah was soiled in the area
Jordan Henderson celebrated with Milner when the midfield duo clicked on the atmosphere for the ending
The penalty kick was awarded after Mohamed Salah was wrestled on the ground by Seiff Morrison of Cardiff
This was not Liverpool at its best against a side of Cardiff who played with spirit and courage. It is difficult to play at this highest level at this stage of the season. The city itself is an example of this.
But Liverpool has so much quality and such a strong courage that it continues to penetrate them. That is what happened here when they ruthlessly ground Cardiff and eventually took away the second half of goals from Gini Wijanaldum and a penalty from James Milner.
Cardiff captain Sean Morrison also played a role in the outcome and that was a shame.
Shortly after the goal from Wijnaldum – an excellent attack from a well-worked Liverpool corner – Morrison missed a golden opportunity to equalize, somehow picking a three-meter header. With ten minutes to go, he struggled Mo Salah to the floor to force a penalty that made Liverpool's final moments more comfortable than would otherwise have been the case.
Salah was booed by the crowd for his part in the incident, but it was a clear punishment. For example, the length of Morrison's embrace from behind was that everything missing was a kiss on the cheek. Referee Martin Atkinson was well positioned and did not hesitate to reward what a clear penalty was.
COMPETITION FACTS, PLAYER FIGURES AND COMPETITION ZONE
CARDIFF (4-1-4-1): Etheridge 7; Peltier 6Morrison 6, Manga 7.5Bennett 6; Gunnarsson 6.5; Hoilett 6.5 (Murphy 83 & # 39; 6), Camarasa 6, Ralls 6 (Bacuna 78 & # 39; 6), Mendez-Laing 7; Niasse 6.5 (Zohore 66 & # 39; 6)
SUBS NOT USED: Smithies, Reid, Cunningham, Harris
MANAGER: Neil Warnock 6.5
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 7; Alexander Arnold 6 (Gomez 85 & # 39; 6), Matip 6.5, Van Dijk 6.5Robertson 6; Henderson 6.5, Wijnaldum 7; Keita 6.5 (Fabinho 71 & # 39; 6 (Milner 75 & # 39; 7)); Salah 8, Firmino 6.5Mane 7.5
SUBS NOT USED: Sturridge, Mignolet, Shaqiri, Origi
TARGET: Wijnaldum 55, Milner (s) 81
MANAGER: Jurgen Klopp 7
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson 7
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- League 1
- Series a
- La Liga
Gini Wijnaldum hit a sublime volley when Liverpool took the lead in Cardiff. CLICK HERE for more from MATCH ZONE
So Liverpool rolls in and also this extraordinary title race. To summarize, the team of Jurgen Klopp now has 88 points with three games to go and has only lost once in the competition. Yet they remain second favorites to be the first to cross the line.
Despite that and despite the fact that the first half owned nearly 80 percent, the main contribution of the opening period came from their keeper Alisson. The visiting team had hopefully hoped out rather than with a big sentence for 43 minutes when the perseverance of Junior Hoilett Cardiff won a corner on the right.
The next cross was cleared at the edge of the penalty area, where Victor Camarasa hit a volley into the ground and flew up six meters from the goal. Standing with his back to the goal, center front, Oumar Niasse hooked the ball and it was only because Alisson had the presence of ghost to stand high on his line that the Brazilian was able to secure the shot over the bar to bring.
Georginio Wijnaldum finally broke the deadlock for Liverpool early in the second half with a powerful volley from a corner
The Dutchman let out a shriek of jubilation and relief as his teammates rushed to join him during the celebrations
Roberto Firmino grabbed the goal-oriented Dutchman on his way to the Liverpool supporters in the corner
Wijnaldum flooded the passion after he hit the back of the net for the side of Jurgen Klopp
A goal at that stage would have asked Liverpool big questions, despite the fact that they had been the better, more progressive team, they had not been at their best. Over the course of half, they dominated in terms of possession and territory and created only two or three real opportunities.
Cardiff looked like a team that had not given up hope for survival in the Premier League. Their midweek victory in Brighton looked like it gave them a little bit of conviction and their organization and hard work were enough to keep Liverpool at bay for a long time.
Around the border Cardiff manager Neil Warnock lived up to his reputation. He was in the ears of the fourth officials from the beginning, complaining about this, that and everything. You sometimes wondered what I would do if he really had something real to be unhappy about.
Fortunately for him, his team was less emotional and it took almost 22 minutes for them to get a chance at Liverpool.
If it had happened, Liverpool should have scored. A nice combination between Salah and Sadio Mane at 25 yards from goal played Roberto Firmino, but only for the Brazilian to improve his shot over the goal. Hardly had the ball left the crossbar, Firmino looked at the linesman. If he suspected he had been offside, he was not, and Liverpool should have taken the lead.
Shortly before, midfielder Nathaniel Mendez-Laing had passed Trent Alexander-Arnold to cross to Hoilett on the far post. Not long after, he drove past his husband again.
Cardiff lost the chance to make up immediately when Sean Morrison missed an open goal with a header
Oumar Niasse drove close to Cardiff after a ball was thrown over the top that allowed him to turn and aim a salvo at target
But Liverpool's keeper Alisson Becker was right and showed quick reflexes to knock the ball over the crossbar
Reds skipper Jordan Henderson was in a frequent battle with Cardiff City colleague Joe Ralls
Cardiff, however, was more concerned about not conceding. A cross from Alexander-Arnold was met by Mane just after half an hour at the first post, but the shot shot missed the target. Then, in the 34 minute, Salah was clearly eliminated by Jordan Henderson, only for Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge, to save the low chance with his left foot. In retrospect, Salah had probably tried to lift the ball over the keeper.
As it was, Salah led a few raids from deep before the interval not to find the right pass at the right time. Cardiff's central defender Bruno Ecuele Manga worked very diligently to try to close Salah, not an easy task on a day as hot as this.
One of these attempts made sure that Liverpool had a corner on the left in the extra playing time of the first half and again they could score.
The movement of Mane at the nearest post was perfect and if a red shirt arrived, the goal would have easily come to two or three meters. Strangely enough, there was nobody there and Klopp walked through the tunnel 30 seconds later and still shook his head that a straight line from the training field was not working properly.
Thirteen minutes to the second half, however, made up for Liverpool.
Cardiff had actually started half well. Captain Morrison led half a chance to the top of the goal and the Warnock team spent a little more time in the opposition area.
Liverpool's threat, however, remained clear, and after Mane had just curled an attempt and Alexander-Arnold was bubbling wide again, they came in the lead with a beautifully taken set piece.
The corner of Alexander-Arnold on the right first looked as if it had been kicked off. But it was actually delivered perfectly for Wijnaldum, who had withdrawn from his husband and met the ball with the swing of his right foot to push him swiftly past Etheridge.
Roberto Firmino came on goal in the first half, but curled his one-on-one attempt over the bar
His strike partner Sadio Mane also remained with his head in his hands after he had missed an opportunity for the Reds early on.
Salah followed his example and failed to find the back of the net when Liverpool rained opportunities on Cardiff in the opening stages
Firmino had urged his teammates to maintain their concentration while pushing hard for the elusive opening goal
The home supporters watched from the stands and peered down as the bright Easter Sunday sunlight drenched the stadium
Neil Warnock remained lying with his head in his hands, just a few moments later, after a decision had been made against him
Warnock had warmly greeted Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp on the border line before the match began
Peter Moore, Liverpool CEO, smiled as he sat down in the stands and was ready to see the Reds at work in South Wales
It was a finish that was slightly more emphatic than the Liverpool performance, but they wanted to expand the goal further and should have really put the game to bed after the hour.
At this late stage of the season, Liverpool's pressing game remains impressive when it is not in possession. And when Naby Keita took the ball 25 meters away and turned his back on Mane, Jordan gave Henderson all the time to choose a spot. Unfortunately for the Liverpool captain, the one he had chosen was halfway behind the goal and as a result Cardiff remained in the match.
They should have been level three minutes. Everyone missed a corner from the right and the only thing Morrison had to do was penetrate the goal from three yards. Inexplicably, he completely deformed his drop-out forward and the ball bounced from the back to his neck and rolled away from the goal.
That was not the last meaningful contribution from Morrison. With ten minutes to go, the game started to get a bit faltering and stretched. It seemed that it could be more like Cardiff. Liverpool certainly had no control over the play.
But when Cardiff was carefree and Salah ran to the penalty area with Morrison just behind him, it was not hard to imagine what was coming.
When Morrison tried to stop the Egyptian twist, he did so by wrapping both arms behind him. Salah went down and Atkinson gave a penalty that replaced Milner and repented with the kind of authority that can only give experience to a player.