Georginio Wijnaldum, Joel Matip earn top marks as Liverpool handle Cardiff, go top of the table
Liverpool kept their cool in the South Wales heat and eventually wore down plucky Cardiff in a 2-0 victory. The home side were defending valiantly and the Reds had been wasteful in a first half they dominated, but the breakthrough eventually came via a cracker from Georginio Wijnaldum. A late James Milner penalty then made the game safe and sent Liverpool back to the top of the table.
The maturity of the side continues to impress. Liverpool's supporters might be nervous, but the players certainly don't look it.
The wastefulness in front of goal could have been costly on another day or against a different opponent.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Jurgen Klopp shuffled his midfield pack by bringing in Naby Keita and switching the roles of Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson. It worked well as the Reds dominated the game and picked up a huge win. Klopp's preparation and attention to detail also played a part as he revealed afterwards that his team had trained on an unwatered field at their Melwood training ground the day before in anticipation of how Cardiff would prepare their pitch.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 6 -- Made a good save to deny Oumar Niasse just before half-time. Flapped at a corner in the second half and was relieved to see Sean Morrison fail to get anything on it, although the referee had already signalled for a questionable foul against the Brazilian.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 5 -- Given an early chasing by Cardiff's pacy winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and that impacted his willingness to go forward. More comfortable in the second half but never offered the kind of creative spark that he has become known for.
DF Joel Matip, 8 -- Another fine performance from one of the unsung heroes of this side. Battled well against the physical Niasse and was always purposeful and positive with his passing into the frontmen and forays forward with the ball.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 7 -- Comfortable. Won his aerial challenges, did everything he needed to do but for once had to take a back seat to his defensive partner.
DF Andrew Robertson, 6 -- Uncharacteristically wasteful with his crossing and also guilty of one or two sloppy passes. Defended stoutly enough when he needed to and worked tirelessly up and down the field.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 8 -- The Dutchman is always outstanding when utilised in the holding role and he showed once again how well suited he is to that position. Terrific on the ball in tight spaces, very good at covering space and preventing counter-attacks, and he even popped up with the decisive opening goal.
MF Jordan Henderson, 7 -- Another strong showing from the captain in that more advanced role he is enjoying so much. Should have capped his impressive performance with a goal but disappointingly blazed his shot over the bar after he was picked out by Sadio Mane.
MF Naby Keita, 7 -- Neat and tidy, energetic, found space well and overall did a good job before making way for Fabinho with 20 minutes to go.
FW Mohamed Salah, 7 -- Wasteful in the first half when he missed a great chance and failed to make the most of two excellent counter-attacking opportunities. Continued to plug away though and eventually got his reward by winning a late penalty.
FW Roberto Firmino, 8 -- Should have scored early on but that was a minor blemish on an outstanding performance from the Brazilian. His ability to find space and keep the ball shone through all afternoon and he carried out Klopp's tactical instructions to perfection.
FW Sadio Mane, 8 -- Lively throughout. Could have had a couple of goals in the first half and was a constant menace with his combination of skill, strength and speed.
MF Fabinho, N/R -- Replaced Keita but lasted only a minute before a clash of heads forced him off.
MF James Milner, N/R -- Came on for Fabinho and did exactly what was required of him, including showing nerves of steel once again to bury a late penalty.
DF Joe Gomez, N/R -- Given a few minutes at the end as he returns to full fitness.