Player ratings: Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool

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Another hard fought victory today but such are the levels this team is now performing at, I never felt particularly worried that we wouldn’t get the job done. I knew we’d find a way to beat Cardiff and so it proved. Let’s see how the league leaders got on.

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Alisson (6) - Cardiff showed no interest in pressing our back four so Alisson didn’t really get the opportunity to do anything mental in this game, although he did flap badly at two corners, the latter of which should really have resulted in a goal. Dealt comfortably with everything else on a fairly quiet afternoon for him.

TAA (6) - Fairly dismal display from Trent for the most part, as Mendez-Laing gave him an absolutely torrid time of it first half and generally had the beating of him the whole game. Crossing and set-pieces weren’t at his usual standard although he still managed to register an assist for Gini’s opener. Other than that though, one to forget for the youngster.

Matip (8) - Excellent display from Matip who only narrowly misses out on man of the match. Rock solid defensively but his dribbling forward was causing Cardiff all sorts of problems. They didn’t know what to do with him as he became the extra man, overloading their half again and again. Passed well throughout too. He and Van Dijk are head and shoulders the stand out centre backs in the league right now.

Van Dijk (7.5) - A couple of uncharacteristically nervy moments, where he opted to boot it out for a throw in, when he probably had time for a touch but were at the stage of the season where there is no margin for error so personally, I don’t really have a problem with the ‘safety first’ mentality. Especially as he subsequently cleared both of the aforementioned throw-ins. Other than that, rock solid as usual.

Robertson (7.5) - Crossing not at his usual level but Robbo was absolutely rock solid defensively, tenacious in the tackle and showed what else he brings to this team, other than assists. Made a vital block first half and won back possession countless times. His relentless running effectively occupies two opposition players as well. Their attacking wide player is fearful of committing too far forward and when he does, he invariably gets no change out of Robbo and if the full back dares go forward, that plays right into Robbo’s hands. Throw Mane into the mix and they must be an absolute nightmare for any opposing team.

Wijnaldum (8.5) - Gini you dirty, filthy boy!! After much deliberation, I’ve decided to go for Gini as my man of the match. There were other contenders but no one player stood out a mile, so I’ve opted for the importance of his input and that opening goal was the most pivotal moment of the game, as well as being a fine strike. I’ve often banged on about Gini’s ability to do more in the final third and this was another example of it. Other than that, put in a faultless display in the number six role. Hopefully feeling the benefit of his recent rest.

Henderson (7.5) - Another good display from Hendo as he covered every blade of grass and did some vital work defensively. Passing wasn’t at the levels we’ve seen in recent games however and he missed a sitter with the game poised, us a goal up. Still, our midfield all seem to be finding top form at just the right time.

Keita (7) - Another vastly improved display from Keita, who finally seems to have settled. Dribbles effortlessly past players and produced some nice, probing passing that we’ve often missed this season. If he continues to grow into the team the way he has in recent weeks, I’m really looking forward to seeing him next season.

Salah (7) - Lively and looked a threat all afternoon but decision making, finishing and final ball were all poor on the day. As is Salah’s way however, he tends to pop up with a pivotal moment and he delivered again, winning the penalty which made the game safe. I don’t know what the pundits were banging on about, saying it was a soft penalty. Morrison had both arms around him, one around his neck! Salah shouldn’t have had to go down for the ref to award the penalty.

Firmino (7) - Missed an absolute sitter when finding himself clean through, with plenty of time. Not being a natural finisher is Bobby's only Achilles heel as a forward. The miss aside, he put in a tireless display, pressed relentlessly and I particularly liked a moment where he saw Trent was struggling, ran over and barged the Cardiff player into the advertising board, before making off with the ball. Love it, you won’t bully this team.

Mane (7.5) - Another guilty of missing a good opportunity in the first half but that aside, Mane gave Cardiff a torrid afternoon. He was downright toying with them at times. Mane has found another level, the second half of this season I feel. Unlucky not to get an assist after playing Bobby through for what should have been a goal.

Subs:

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Fabinho (N/A) - Only on the pitch a few moments before he had to be substituted after a nasty clash of heads. After a few worrying moments, where he lay unmoved on the pitch, he walked off unaided and the substitution thankfully appears to have been just precautionary.

Milner (8)  - Mr. Reliable James Milner does it again. When you need a cool head, in a pressure situation, there are few better. Calmly dispatched the penalty, moments after coming on which killed the game. Scored an extra half point for his celebration.

Gomez (N/A) - More vital minutes under the belt.

Klopp-watch (8) - Quite a hard game to score Jurgen on, as Cardiff set up to frustrate and little more. Vindicated in his decision to start Gini, as he scored the all important opener. Job done, once again.

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Summary:

As I said, such are the levels we’re playing at now, I never had any doubt we would beat Cardiff today and so it proved. This team is the real deal and the most important business conducted this summer, will be keeping this core of players together. Yes, we will strengthen the squad as players leave but the level this team has found now, is as good as anyone. There are minor tweaks we can make but this team is already there and we must be a nightmare to both try and prepare for and play against.

Ball back in City’s court then as they travel to Old Trafford on Wednesday to take on a Man United team in desperate form. Here’s hoping their humbling today at the hands of Everton will stir a reaction out of them in the derby midweek. Once again though, we’ve done our bit, pressure back on City.

I genuinely believe we can win every game between now and the end of the season. Whether it will be enough, who knows. It did occur to me however that it would be ironic, should City win the league and we win the Champions League, that these two rivals would have each won the title the other craves the most. Who ever said it was a funny old game...

Anyway, we now await Wednesday’s result with baited breath so Come on Uni... Na, I just couldn’t bring myself to say it. YNWA

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