Liverpool opened up a three-point lead at the Premier League summit with no other team in the top five in action until later this weekend.
Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier League as Sadio Mane scored twice in a routine 4-1 win over Cardiff City.
Mohamed Salah gave the Reds an early lead, moving on to seven goals for the season following his midweek brace against Red Star Belgrade.
Cardiff showed a touch more ambition after half-time, although Mane finished emphatically in the 65th minute before Callum Paterson became the first visiting player to score at Anfield in the Premier League since February.
Xherdan Shaqiri settled any nerves by crowning a lively cameo with a crisp 84th-minute finish and Mane added further gloss, matching Salah’s haul of seven for the season and putting Jurgen Klopp’s unbeaten side three points clear of champions Manchester City, who take on Tottenham on Monday.
FULL-TIME Liverpool 4-1 Cardiff
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 27, 2018
Virgil van Dijk’s header bounced to safety off the post as Cardiff continued to wobble but their massed defensive ranks managed to reach the interval with no further damage – Morrison clearing off the line from the recalled Adam Lallana in the half’s final act.
Cardiff’s faint threats of revival were snuffed out when Mane, who appeared to have bundled his way down a blind alley, crashed a venomous left-footed strike past Neil Etheridge from 16 yards.
Just as the match looked to be meandering to a close, Paterson prodded in Junior Hoilett’s low right-wing cross at the near post.
Yet the goal stung Liverpool into life, with Salah laying on Shaqiri’s goal and releasing Mane to dink a cute finish over Etheridge.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 27, 2018
The Premier League’s top five is unlikely to remain so congested as England’s winter months begin to bite and Liverpool served further notice of their title ambitions as they were barely required to break sweat. Over to Arsenal and Chelsea on Sunday, before Spurs and City go about taking points off one another.
Salah purrs to end productive week
Mane will deservedly grab the headlines after his excellent brace but Salah continued a recent upturn that should silence any lingering complaints about form this season. The Egypt star wrecked Cardiff’s gameplan with his early opportunism, while his cool head in assisting Shaqiri and Mane allowed Liverpool to ease over the line.
Warnock sealing Cardiff’s fate
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock has understandably made much of the gulf in class and resources between his own side and Liverpool. Those facts could not excuse a woeful first-half display, where City coughed up a scarcely credible 85.5 per cent possession to Liverpool. The likes of Bournemouth, Burnley, Brighton and Hove Albion and Huddersfield have all thrived on relatively meagre budgets over recent seasons in the Premier League. Surrendering entire halves of football is no way to approach imitating their exploits.
An entirely different challenge awaits Liverpool at in-form Arsenal next weekend, while the onus will be on Cardiff to emerge from their own half with greater frequency when they host Leicester City.