Liverpool went top of the Barclays Premier League with a 3-1 victory over Cardiff City at Anfield, as they continued their run of good form to make it four wins in a row – with 17 goals scored.
Having committed his future to the club with a new contract, Luis Suarez retained the captain’s armband in the absence of Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger, with Brendan Rodgers naming the same starting XI that saw off Spurs so efficiently at White Hart Lane.
The first chance of the afternoon went to Liverpool, as Suarez fired wide after just two minutes following good work from Raheem Sterling to get in behind the Cardiff defence.
The visitors were determined not to allow their opponents any time on the ball though, and most of the Liverpool chances in the early exchanges were speculative efforts under pressure. At the other end Craig Noone went closest with a curled effort on 15 minutes that saw Simon Mignolet at full stretch to save.
Cardiff stopped applying the same level of pressure as the first half went on, and Liverpool steadily started to look more and more threatening. It seemed only a matter of time before there was something for the home fans to cheer about, and Suarez duly obliged in the 25th minute when he got on the end of Jordan Henderson’s looping cross to fire home a volley into the bottom corner.
The flow of the game had been moving in Liverpool’s direction, and the goal opened the floodgates. Philippe Coutinho hit the post after doing well to work himself an opening, and Jon Flanagan saw his effort cleared off the line.
The lead was doubled with three minutes left of the first half, as the Reds broke forward on the counter-attack. Suarez found himself one-on-one with David Marshall in the Cardiff goal, but unselfishly played it to his right for the better-placed Sterling to tap home into an empty net.
Things went from bad to worse for Malky Mackay’s men with seconds left of the opening half, as Suarez produced a breathtaking strike to curl the ball into the far corner from 20 yards out – meaning Liverpool went in three goals to the good at the break.
The second half continued in the same fashion as the first – with Liverpool dominating proceedings. Things changed as the hour mark approached though, when the Reds defence left Jordon Mutch free at the back post from a free kick to give Cardiff a way back into the game with a headed goal.
The goal seemed to spark renewed belief in the away side, and the following 15 minutes were a much more closely fought affair. Sensing a weakness in their opponents, the Cardiff players swung as many balls as they could into the Liverpool penalty area.
As the half wore on though any hopes the visitors had of getting something from the game started to fade, and the Reds once again became the dominant side. Sterling looked on course for a second goal as he broke through the Cardiff defence once again, but a heavy touch allowed Marshall the chance to block. Suarez latched on to the resulting reboud, but his shot fired off the wrong side of the post.
The introduction of Agger for Coutinho in the 83rd minute ensured Liverpool remained tight at the back in the closing exchanges, and their goal didn’t face any further serious challenge from that point.
There remained one final chance for Suarez to get another hat-trick, but Marshall was on this occasion up the challenge of keeping the Uruguayan out. Lee Probert blew his whistle shortly after to bring the game to a close, and confirm that the Reds go top of the league pending the outcome of Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea on Monday.