Shaqiri calls the tune for Liverpool
Eventually the goals came for Jurgen Klopp’s team, and by the end they were cutting loose like a team who have won eight in an undefeated league season so far which puts them, for now at least, back at the top of the Premier League.
They had blitzed Cardiff early on with a goal from Mohamed Salah within 10 minutes, and the possessioncount needle stayed above 80 per cent for much of the match, a dominance exemplified by a first half in which there were 412 Liverpool passes to Cardiff ’s 35.
There were two goals from Sadio Mane and two assists from Salah to go with his goal, yet it was tempting to go with substitute Xherdan Shaqiri, scorer of the third, as the game’s outstanding player.
The Swiss maestro came on only after 61 minutes, his considerable chest puffed out, full of determination to make up for lost time. After a week of singing Shaqiri’s praises, Klopp had dropped him in favour of trying to get a tune out of Adam Lallana.
Shaqiri offered a vision in midfield that Liverpool had been lacking till then. The substitute’s goal was well taken, and he has made a strong case to start against Arsenal next Saturday.
“We don’t know Shaq long enough to know how he reacts,” Klopp explained. “We have to protect him until we know him better. It was good to start Adam. He worked very hard in the first half.”
The first Anfield away goal in 10 league games stopped Liverpool setting what would have been a club record for consecutive clean sheets in the league. When Callum Paterson diverted in Junior Hoilett’s cross, he scored the first goal at Anfield by an opposition player in the league since Michail Antonio got one for West Ham in a 4-1 home win on Feb 24.
“Eerie” was how Warnock described the quiet in Anfield in the minutes that followed, although it did not last long.
Timely intervention: Substitute Xherdan Shaqiri inspired Liverpool to a rousing finale against Cardiff
It had threatened to be a swift and brutal conclusion to the game as a contest, and Salah’s goal felt like it would be the first of many. It was Liverpool’s third attempt in the space of a few seconds as the home team blocked, headed and resisted until the ball dropped to the Egyptian’s left foot.
Cardiff then defended deep and there was little or no pressure on the ball when their opposition had it, which was most of the time.
“We had to create and create and create. That is really hard work,” Klopp said.
Mane scored his first on 66 minutes, inexplicably allowed to twist and turn his way into a shooting position, and firing with his left foot. Virgil van Dijk deflected the cross for Paterson’s goal, a move started by Bobby Reid.
Shaqiri then made space from Salah’s pass to shoot into the corner, before Mane ran onto Salah’s through ball to score the fourth.