by Richard Early
Reds top Premier League…
Date: April 21st, 2019
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Referee: Martin Atkinson
BATTLING Cardiff City lost 2-0 to title-chasing Liverpool in Premier League matchday 35 on Easter Sunday.
Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock named an unchanged starting XI from the 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday evening, while Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita entered Jürgen Klopp’s starting line-up following the Reds’ 4-1 win away to Porto on Wednesday night.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s 57th-minute opener and James Milner’s late penalty proved enough to send the visitors top of the Premier League standings.
Despite Liverpool dominating the opening proceedings, the game’s first real chance went the way of City after 15 minutes. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who opened the scoring against Brighton & Hove Albion last time out, sped down the left wing and beat right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, before delivering a cross that found winger Junior Hoilett at the back-post, although left-back Andrew Robertson blocked the Canadian’s shot.
The title-chasers responded by crafting a superb opportunity and coming close to breaking the deadlock with 22 minutes played. Threatening winger Sadio Mané sent Firmino one-on-one with Neil Etheridge, but the goalkeeper did enough to put the striker off, who sent the ball over the crossbar.
Nine minutes later, the Reds came close again as Alexander-Arnold paced along the right flank, prior to delivering a dangerous cross and Mané flicked over the crossbar. It only took the visitors three minutes to near an opener as captain Henderson sent Mohamed Salah through on goal, but the onrushing Etheridge kept the current Player of the Season and Golden Boot holder out.
As half-time approached, City came ever-so near to breaking the deadlock through striker Oumar Niasse, who eyed his first goal for the club. Following a clearance from midfielder Joe Ralls’ corner, 24-year-old Víctor Camarasa volleyed from the edge of the area and Niasse’s overhead kick was tipped over by goalkeeper Alisson.
After the interval, it took the hosts four minutes to catch sight of goal again. From the left wing, Mendez-Laing whipped a threatening cross towards captain Sean Morrison, who looked to score his second consecutive goal, but headed over.
Two minutes later, Mané ambitiously looked to send the Reds in front. The winger broke down the left flank, before curling over from just inside the box and at an acute angle, rather than utilising his options in the area. Shortly after, Liverpool broke the deadlock as Dutch international Wijnaldum smashed in from 20-year-old Alexander-Arnold’s corner.
Cardiff City responded in attacking fashion and on the hour mark, Hoilett shot on target. Mendez-Laing produced a scintillating run along the left wing and into the area, before finding fellow his winger, who curled into the arms of Alisson. One minute later, the visitors had a terrific opportunity and from the left wing, Mané found teammate Henderson inside the area, who fired over.
The Bluebirds determinedly looked for an equaliser and almost got it with 64 minutes played. Ralls’ corner from the right found Morrison at the back-post and the centre-back headed astray of the left upright.
Liverpool were awarded a penalty with ten minutes of the 90 remaining as Salah went down from a Morrison challenge and substitute Milner finished from the spot. Nine minutes later, Salah eyed his 20th goal of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign as he poked on target from inside the area, but Etheridge pulled off a strong right-handed stop.
No further opportunities arose and the Reds took three points, despite a hard-fought display from the Bluebirds.
Final score: Cardiff City 0-2 Liverpool
Man-of-the-match: Georginio Wijnaldum
Neil Warnock: “We wanted to give Liverpool a game and attack them when we could: we didn’t want to just sit back and have a boring 0-0, but they’re just a good side and there’s not a weakness in their team or on their bench.”
Jürgen Klopp: “The result is massive and it was so difficult. It was not a game for playing around: it was one for battling and who wanted it more.”
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Peltier, Bennett, Morrison, Ecuele Manga, Ralls (Bacuna 78’), Gunnarsson, Mendez-Laing, Camarasa, Niasse (Zohore 66’), Hoilett (Murphy 83’). Subs not used: Smithies, Decordova-Reid, Cunningham, Harris.
Liverpool: Alisson, van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Keita (Fabinho 71’) (Milner 75’), Firmino, Mané, Salah, Henderson, Robertson, Matip, Alexander-Arnold (Gomez 85’). Subs not used: Mignolet, Sturridge, Shaqiri, Origi.