In a tightly fought game in Wales, Liverpool beat Cardiff 0-2 to go top of the league.
The win piles the pressure on Manchester City to beat Manchester United midweek. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Georginio Wijnaldum
It has to hurt when you lose your place in the team, and Georginio Wijnaldum who was previously indispensable for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool had most definitely done that. The rise of Naby Keita and repositioning of Jordan Henderson have left Wijnaldum out of the Reds’ first-choice XI, but today rotation gave him a start.
And he responded by blasting Liverpool into the lead and to the top of the table.
It’s hard to overstate just how important this goal was. Liverpool desperately needed to win this game in order to go back to the top of the table and put pressure on Manchester City ahead of the midweek Manchester Derby, and it didn’t look like they would. Uncharacteristic misses from their forwards, notably Bobby Firmino, had it looking like “one of those days” for the Reds.
Then up stepped Wijnaldum to lash a spectacular strike into the back of the net. A thunderous finish, as emphatic in execution as in importance. And perhaps given Fabinho’s concussion, Wijnaldum may find himself back in the side for the big games?
Loser: Trent Alexander-Arnold
It’s rare that Trent Alexander-Arnold has struggled since he basically usurped the starting right-back slot from Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez. Sure he’s had weaknesses but more often than not his incredible strengths – that sublime passing – have made up for them.
This afternoon he was really made to suffer, however. Cardiff ran at him all night long and he rarely looked capable of dealing with the Bluebirds. Were it not for solid displays from Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool could have been upset here because of Alexander-Arnold’s weakness (one imagines Jordi Alba and Barcelona were looking at this with keen interest).
Winner: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold has provided five assists in the Premier League in 2019; only Andrew Robertson and João Moutinho have set up more goals (6).
What an assist that could prove to be. ? pic.twitter.com/5GHkKOlM4s
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 21, 2019
Football, however, always allows you a way to redeem yourself. Trent Alexander-Arnold was poor defensively, getting exposed over and over again by Cardiff – but he will end this match with his head held high because it was his perfectly delivered corner that allowed Liverpool to take the lead.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s strike will undoubtedly take a lot of credit, and deservedly so, but the quality of Alexander-Arnold’s cross, a sublime curling effort that teased the Cardiff defence just enough for them to create the space Wijnaldum needed to hammer Liverpool into the lead. The Reds have 21 set-piece goals this season (the next highest has 13) and Alexander-Arnold is a huge part of that.
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Loser: Neil Warnock
You have to feel for Neil Warnock, at least in a footballing sense. He set his side out to compete so well against Liverpool, the Bluebirds fought and scrapped and held the Reds to few chances. Warnock’s side didn’t just defend, they actually pushed forward in attack with a sense of relentlessnesss.
Yet they couldn’t get close to really landing a blow on Liverpool, and they conceded two goals from set-pieces. First a corner, something Warnock will consider his side’s bread-and-butter, and then one of his defenders is clearly fouling Mohamed Salah but it was only when the Egyptian threw himself to the floor that the referee blew his whistle and that makes it 0-2. Unlucky Neil.
Winner: Nathaniel Mendez-Laing
It’s rare that an attacking player has stood out for Cardiff this season but Nathaniel Mendez-Laing managed it for Cardiff this afternoon. The English journeyman came to life against Liverpool and gave young Trent Alexander-Arnold as much trouble as any of the elite opponents he had played. Mendez-Laing backed himself with the ball and routinely roasted the young right-back.
Pace, power and incredible close control allowed him to dominate and if he had better support in attack (or if Liverpool’s centre-backs weren’t so good) then he might have honestly managed to generate a goal for the Bluebirds against the Reds.
Loser: Manchester United
Poor United, first they get tuned up by Everton and lose 4-0, but then they’ll be watching Cardiff hold Liverpool and realise that if they drop points then City will have a margin of error that could cause complacency in their ranks ahead of Wednesday’s Manchester derby. Oh! And Crystal Palace beat Arsenal at the Emirates! This really is their chance to secure top four against the odds!
Except then Liverpool powered to victory against Cardiff. And now City have to go full-steam ahead if they want to win the title, meaning that it will become incredibly difficult for United to get the win they need – and if they do get that win, they will probably be handing Liverpool the title! What a rough break for The Red Devils!