By Jack Wilkinson
Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool: Reds see off stubborn Cardiff to return top
Highlights and report as Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner seal ninth-straight win for Jurgen Klopp's title-chasing side
Last Updated: 21/04/19 11:18pm
Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 2-0 victory away at relegation-threatened Cardiff on Super Sunday.
Georginio Wijnaldum's third goal of the season (57) and a late James Milner penalty (81) sealed a ninth-consecutive victory for Jurgen Klopp's side that restores their two-point lead over Manchester City.
Things could have been different for Cardiff had captain Sean Morrison converted a gilt-edged close-range header immediately after Wijnaldum's opener, but Liverpool secured a win which takes their points total to 88 - their highest ever in the Premier League.
Liverpool's victory piles the pressure on the champions ahead of Wednesday's Manchester derby at Old Trafford - live on Sky Sports - and leaves 18th-placed Cardiff three points from safety with just three games to secure their top-flight status.
Cardiff: Etheridge (7), Peltier (6), Morrison (5), Manga (7), Bennett (6), Gunnarsson (6), Ralls (6), Mendez-Laing (7), Camarasa (6), Hoilett (6), Niasse (6).
Subs: Bacuna (5, Zohore (5), Murphy (n/a).
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (7), Matip (8), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (7), Henderson (7), Wijnaldum (8), Keita (7), Mane (8), Salah (7), Firmino (6).
Subs: Milner (6), Fabinho (n/a), Gomez (n/a).
Man of the Match: Joel Matip
How Reds recovered from first-half frustration
Junior Hoilett nearly gave Cardiff the lead on the quarter-hour mark but, having opted against heading Joe Bennett's cross from the right first time, Andrew Robertson had just enough time to block his low shot.
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Liverpool dominated the ball, but that clinical edge in front of goal evaded them, Roberto Firmino ballooning over the bar on 22 minutes after Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane had combined on the edge of the area to release the Brazilian.
The pace of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing posed a real threat down Liverpool's right but, having been left trailing in the winger's wake, Trent Alexander-Arnold responded with his own foray forward, crossing to the near post on 31 minutes but Mane deflected over from close range.
When Liverpool did find the target, Neil Etheridge was on hand in the Cardiff goal to keep the Reds at bay, racing off his line to smother Salah's shot after he spun away from Bruno Ecuele Manga.
And Cardiff nearly ended the half with a flourish as Joe Ralls kept a corner alive, presenting Everton loanee Oumar Niasse with the chance to fire an acrobatic effort on target, which Alisson brilliantly tipped over.
Aron Gunnarsson passes a late fitness test as Neil Warnock named an unchanged after Cardiff win at Brighton. Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino were recalled by Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool made three changes following their midweek Champions League win in Porto.
Liverpool maintained the pressure on the Cardiff goal after the interval, Mane whipped a fierce shot on the roof of the net on 51 minutes before Alexander-Arnold flashed a shot wide from distance, but that pressure soon told.
Wijnaldum peeled away to the edge of the area to meet Alexander-Arnold's corner and produced a devastating finish, rounding off a brilliantly-executed set-piece move to hand Liverpool the lead on 57 minutes.
Jordan Henderson should have doubled Liverpool's lead shortly after the hour, but the Reds captain blazed over after Mane's cutback found him unmarked six yards out.
But that miss paled into insignificance when Morrison somehow failed to find the target after Bennett's in-swinging cross flashed through Alisson hands and found the Cardiff skipper three yards out, the ball cannoning off his back and behind for a goal kick.
And things went from bad to worse for Morrison as he hauled Salah to ground in the area, presenting Milner with the chance to seal the victory from the penalty spot with nine minutes remaining.
- 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.
- Only Wilfried Zaha (six) has won more Premier League penalties this season than Liverpool forward Mo Salah (five).
- 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.
Jurgen Klopp: "Things don't happen easily, you have to be 100 per cent serious, the boys were that and we deserved the three points. It wasn't a game for playing around, it was a battle, who wanted it more. It's an outstanding moment again, 88 points is pretty special. This team deserves it."
Neil Warnock: "I thought it was a soft penalty. We gave the referee the opportunity to give it. Morrison had his arms around Salah but the last bit was a 9.9 Tom Daley job. I don't think he could have got much higher off the diving board."
Man of the Match - Joel Matip
Liverpool host Huddersfield on Friday Night Football (8pm BST) - live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm. Cardiff, meanwhile, entertain Crystal Palace on Saturday (5.30pm).