A Luis Suarez hat-trick helped Liverpool twice come from behind before claiming their sixth successive Premier League victory with a 6-3 triumph over Cardiff City in the Welsh capital.
The final score-line was tough on a Cardiff City side mired in the relegation zone, but who were game throughout and caused Liverpool plenty of problems in the opening half. Indeed they twice went in front inside the first 25 minutes. Jordan Mutch had given them what was a deserved lead, before former Manchester Untied striker Frazier Campbell restored their advantage after Luis Suarez’s equalizer. But goals either side of half-time from Martin Skrtel, the second when Cardiff were controversially forced to defend a corner with nine men, turned the contest in Liverpool’s favor.
And Liverpool’s devastating front two then came to the fore as Suarez and Daniel Sturridge combined , with each getting on the scoresheet to make the points safe. After Mutch had grabbed a consolation, Suarez then completed his hat-trick with almost the last kick of the game to take his Premier League tally for the season to 28.
Having recorded back-to-back clean sheets away from home, there was a return of the defensive vulnerability at the Cardiff City Stadium. In particular, the diamond system that worked so well at Old Trafford last week was exposed for its narrowness by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Yet there was always the sense that Liverpool would still have more than enough quality to crank up their devastating attacking football and overmatch their opponents.
The win keeps Rodgers’s outfit right in the thick of what is now surely a three-way title race following Arsenal’s mauling at the hands of leaders Chelsea earlier in the day. Still to welcome Chelsea and Manchester City to Anfield, where they have failed to win just twice this season, it remains foolish to dismiss Liverpool’s chances of a first championship in 24 years.
After the disappointment of conceding a late goal to fall defeat to Everton last week, it was Cardiff who began brightly against the Premier League’s other Merseyside representatives. Defender Kevin Theophile-Catherine had a chance inside the first five minutes but fired over after the ball fell to him in the center of the box. But Cardiff would make their strong start count with nine minutes on the clock. Joe Allen’s poor pass back toward Jon Flanagan allowed Campbell to intercept and play a pass back to Mutch on the edge of the box who drove a fine low shot into the far corner past an unmoved Simon Mignolet.
The lead would last less than 10 minutes, with Liverpool cutting through Cardiff with ease to get back on level terms. Jordan Henderson’s pass caught out young Cardiff defender Declan John, allowing Glen Johnson to get in behind and cross low for Suarez to turn in at the near post.
With both vulnerable without the ball, there continued to be chances aplenty. Suarez just failed to get on the end of a Sturridge cross, while at the other end Campbell headed over from a cross from former Red forward Craig Bellamy. But once again, Cardiff would successfully exploit Liverpool’s weakness down their left side to move back in front.
As Flanagan came across to cover the run of Fabio, he left a huge gap in the inside left channel that Daniel Agger was slow to close down, allowing the alert Campbell to take Mutch’s pass and cut inside Liverpool’s Danish defender before firing in with his left foot.
Again, it was never a lead that looked like being preserved for long. Though Liverpool were still not at their rampaging best, Allen and Henderson both spurned good openings. And crucially four minutes before the half-time interval Liverpool squared the match up once more. Bo-Kyung Kim was slow to get across to Philippe Coutinho following a half-cleared corner and the Brazilian whipped in a threatening cross that allowed Skrtel to get ahead of Cala and volley past David Marshall from six yards.
The match then controversially turned decisively in Liverpool’s favor less than 10 minutes after the restart. Both Theophile-Catherine and Mutch were forced to come off the pitch after blocking a Suarez free-kick and the follow-up effort, despite the latter receiving negligible treatment. Liverpool took full advantage from the resulting corner as Skrtel got in front of his marker at the near post and the back post was left bare to allow the ball to bounce into the net.
Then came the Suarez and Sturridge show as Liverpool ran riot. The Uruguayan got his second with a cool finish following a delightful back-heel from his strike partner. The favor was returned when Suarez took advantage of a poor defensive header from Steven Caulker to cross low for the fast-arriving Sturridge to convert.
Mutch’s second goal, a header from close range, did not make for pleasurable watching from a Liverpool defensive point of view with both substitute Kenwyne Jones and Mutch left free in the box. If they are to come up short this season then it could well be for that kind of defensive sloppiness. The last word, though, was a further reminder of their incredible threat at the other end. Suarez ran onto a hoofed clearance and shrugged off a challenge from Cala before ignoring substitute Raheem Sterling square of him and gleefully claiming his hat-trick.