Talking Points: Cardiff 0, Liverpool 2

A rare Gini Wijnaldum away goal and a penalty from James Milner secured another three points for Liverpool. They overcame Cardiff on Sunday afternoon. After a wasteful first-half, J├╝rgen Klopp’s side found the goals they needed after the break to return to the top of the Premier League.

Reds unflustered by first-half, professional in second-half…

This was a game that, on paper, could be seen as straightforward given the teams’ league positions. Cardiff’s win over Brighton in midweek has given them real belief they can stay up and their fans will always create a cauldron of atmosphere when playing at home.

Liverpool’s general play on a slow pitch in the first half was more than acceptable. When all of the Reds’ trio missed a great chance some fear would have undoubtedly crept in that this could be one of those days.

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Roberto Firmino’s, in particular, was a sitter. With the Bluebirds looking a slight threat on the counter and from set-pieces, Liverpool needed a goal and quickly. But as the Reds have been more than happy to do in games this season, they bided their time. They kept patient and eventually found the breakthrough after the breakthrough Wijnaldum.

Sean Morrison thankfully missed a sitter of his own to deny the hosts an equaliser. Before James Milner netted the game-killing second goal. From then on, Liverpool simply kept the ball as the minutes ticked by while occasionally venturing forwards.

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It was the kind of professionalism that title winners are made of. Liverpool have shown plenty of it this campaign.

Set-piece success continues…

It is crazy to think that a few seasons ago the term ‘set-piece’ or ‘corner’ would send shivers down the spine of many a Liverpool fan; given how poorly the Reds defended them and rarely scored from them.

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Fast-forward to the 18/19 season and Klopp’s team have one of the best records at not conceding from set-pieces and the best record in the league at scoring from them.

Whether it penalties, corners or free-kicks, Liverpool have been the masters of the dead-ball situation. The Reds proved it once again against Cardiff. Many supporters would have initially thought that Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner in was a poor one. It was, in fact, a tremendously well-worked routine that Wijnaldum finished off superbly.

Klopp admitted after the game that the players decided to use the routine after a half-time discussion. Which highlights just how calculated they want to be about every aspect of a football match. Then came the penalty.

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Rival fans will scream for another Mohamed Salah dive when in truth it was rubbish defending and a clear foul. Milner, ever reliable from the penalty spot, stepped up and sent Neil Etheridge the wrong way to put the Reds 2-0 up. Set-piece FC at it again.

Midfield now contributing to goals on regular basis…

We’ve complained about it for most of the season – Liverpool’s midfield are not producing enough goals and assists. But in recent weeks this has thankfully changed and on Sunday it was another two goals for the Reds’ midfielders. This time against Neil Warnock’s team.

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It was a surprise to see Wijnaldum named in the starting line-up with Fabinho expected to start. The Dutchman made his mark with a thumping finish to score a rare away goal.

Naby Keita played very well as he continued his positive form of late. As did Jordan Henderson. The pair using the ball well and dragging the Cardiff midfield out of position with intelligent runs.

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With a more aggressive and attacking play like this from Klopp’s midfield, it is no surprise that more goal contributions are coming from such players. Henderson and Keita epitomising this perfectly.

Reds putting maximum pressure on City is all we can ask…

It’s all Liverpool can do. Win all of our league games, finish on 97 points. Hope that Manchester City will drop points in a game before the end of the season.

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If Liverpool do that and it still isn’t enough to win the title, then, disappointingly, so be it. City’s game against Spurs on Saturday seemed a great chance for City to drop points. If a few very dodgy officiating decisions went the other way then maybe they might have done.

Liverpool deserve much credit for refusing to buckle under the pressure and maintain said pressure on their rivals. Wednesday sees City face Manchester United at Old Trafford. Despite United’s awful form, it is another decent chance for City to drop points.

Even if United really work Pep Guardiola’s men hard, traveling to face Burnley with a tired squad on three days rest is by no means easy. Liverpool will be hopeful, and at the moment they are doing all they can to keep their title dream alive.

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