Liverpool laboured to a 4-1 win over Cardiff City as the attack eventually showed enough quality to break down a frankly terrible opponent doomed to relegation.
Liverpool 4-1 Cardiff City
Premier League, Anfield
October 27, 2018
Goals: Salah 9′, Mane 65′, 86′, Shaqiri 84′; Paterson 77′.
Alisson – 6
Are we actually sure that he started the first half?
We had no sight of Alisson for a long time in this game and certainly he had no meaningful contribution to make until the 44th minute, smothering a through-pass into the area.
Had nothing to do, then was beaten late on to deny the team a 10th successive clean sheet at Anfield in the league.
Good early crosses kept Cardiff under pressure and one led to the opening goal.
Attacked whenever possible, always available on the overlap and showed recovery pace when needed defensively.
Not as involved after the break but kept the width and defended well against Murphy’s runs down the flank.
Dejan Lovren – 5
Didn’t have a whole lot to do in the first 45 minutes beyond helping crowd out a handful of counter-attacks.
A few poor passes out of defence which his team-mates had to mop up. Caught horribly out of position once near the end of the half and was saved by the linesman’s flag.
A couple of better defensive moments after the break, then lost his man in the six-yard box for the late Cardiff goal.
Virgil van Dijk – 6
Hit the post with a first-half header; didn’t have much to do at the other end of the pitch though beyond clear a couple of crosses.
One of his most low-key games for the Reds.
Alberto Moreno – 6
A rare chance for the Spanish left-back to start and showed his usual traits: good pace, always on the front foot, brought it out of defence well.
Good on the overlap with a couple of crosses into the box.
Nothing much from him in the second half, cleared a couple of attacks down his channel.
Didn’t exactly make a case for more regular inclusion, though, which is what’s needed for the fringe players when they get a chance.
Fabinho – 7
What about that tackle on the edge of his own box?! 10 out of 10 just for that, almost.
Breaks up play well, clearly looks sharper after a whole bunch of recent minutes on the pitch.
A few foraging runs forward when he looks tough to stop, but the pass at the end of them isn’t always the best.
Good to see him in a roving role, picking up possession in both channels and getting into the box when possible.
This role really suits him and his neat, quick, incisive passing and ability to track back and win possession all over the pitch. Got back well to close out danger after some shoddy Lovren passes into midfield.
Busy after the break without being dominant.
Adam Lallana – 5
Given the ‘Shaqiri role’ from the right of the Reds’ 4-2-3-1 but didn’t have anywhere near the effect that the Swiss attacker has managed of late.
Takes too many touches when the Reds are sweeping forward and slows down play.
His best moments were first-touch involvements: a pass down the right for Salah and a header which was cleared off the line.
Subbed off on the hour after no real impact on the match.
Roberto Firmino – 6
Did everything you expect from him, in terms of movement and work rate, but even if Firmino in the 10 role gives an extra attacking option to the team, it perhaps detracts a little from the Brazilian’s own game.
Nice to have the options, though.
Couldn’t really get on the ball inside the area, to create or shoot, and a late first-half effort well over the bar perhaps hinted at his frustration at a lack of involvement in key areas.
His first touch was off on too many occasions and a few back-heeled passes didn’t come off to compound his ineffectiveness.
Sadio Mane – 7
A few threatening early runs but didn’t quite have the final pass in first half.
Scored out of nothing after the hour mark; almost lost the ball twice trying to beat men, then simply lashed it in on the angle, a tremendous strike.
His second goal was a great first-time finish after a fine run, and while his overall performance was a little anonymous, these goals will do nothing but boost his confidence.
Mohamed Salah – 7 – (Man of the Match)
Looks very close to his most effective again. Busy right from kick-off, a danger throughout with his runs in behind and willingness to get shots away.
Scored a fine swept effort inside 10 minutes and had been involved in the build-up too.
Got a bit frustrated at being manhandled constantly in the second half, but still had the quality on the ball to set up two late strikes for his team.
Starting XI Average Rating – 6.18
Xherdan Shaqiri (on for Lallana, 60′) – 7
Brought energy and directness to the final third. Great first touch and shift of the ball to open a space and score his first for the Reds.
James Milner (on for Firmino, 70′) – 6
Neat, tidy, not too involved.
Jurgen Klopp – 7
Team changes are to be expected around this time of the season, but a couple of those he brought in didn’t really justify the decision.
In fairness, Klopp didn’t hang around in bringing on the in-form Shaqiri, but the Reds weren’t as aggressive or sharp in this match as they could have been.
With a week before the next game, perhaps the manager might wish he had gone for a full-strength XI and looked to put a hat-full past an absolutely dreadful opponent.
The biggest talking point about Klopp’s choices though is his continuing with the 4-2-3-1 system, looking to use Salah central and Firmino behind.
Against the weaker teams it has done the business, but it perhaps hasn’t proved it’s absolutely the way to stick with for every match.