Three second half goals saw title challengers Liverpool finally find a way to beat a determined City side 6-3 in a goal filled match at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Goals for Jordon Mutch and Fraizer Campbell either side of a low Luis Suarez strike seemed like it would be enough for the Bluebirds to be leading at half time only for a late Martin Skrtel goal meaning the sides went in level at the break.
A fortunate third goal for Brendan Rodgers’ men saw them take the lead for the first time after fifty seven minutes, Skrtel’s second of the match came with the hosts down to nine men. The Reds pushed on to score two more through the lethal partnership of Suarez and Sturridge before a late second goal for Jordon Mutch gave City hope of a comeback, but a late hat-trick goal for Suarez sealed all three points for the Reds in an incredible Premier League clash.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær made one change from the side that very nearly took a point from the Blue half of Merseyside last week with former Red Craig Bellamy welcomed back into the starting eleven in place of Craig Noone. Brendan Rodgers made a single change from the side that stunned Manchester United at Old Trafford with Philippe Coutinho replacing Raheem Sterling who dropped to the bench.
The home side came out of the blocks looking to pressure the title challenges early on and had an early chance to hit the back of the Reds net after two minutes as Campbell went down on the edge of the box. Kim Bo-Kyung’s in-swinging free kick was unconvincingly tipped over by Simon Mignolet. The following corner caused a penalty box melee with defender Kevin Théophile-Catherine firing over the bar from inside the five yard box.
City continued this impressive start with further pressure on Mignolet’s goal and took the lead much to the delight of those in attendance at Cardiff City Stadium. Full-back Fábio was dispossessed on the edge of the Reds penalty box by opposite number Jon Flanagan but the young Englishman failed to clear with striker Campbell stealing the ball and passing low for Mutch to compose himself and fire home from eighteen yards out.
An end-to-end first half saw the title contenders pull level after sixteen minutes with the clinical Suarez scoring his twenty sixth league goal of an incredible Premier League season. The striker slotted the ball home at close range after England International Glen Johnson cut in from the right and accurately picked out the in-form forward.
City didn’t let this set back impact their performance and nearly took the lead once more after twenty four minutes when Campbell headed over the crossbar after Bellamy beat the Reds defence to the ball on the right side and whipped in a brilliant cross. The home faithful were celebrating once more with Cardiff’s own dangerous combination Mutch and Campbell worked their magic once more.
Mutch’s delightful through ball found Campbell running inside the box with the former Manchester United man taking on Daniel Agger before firing the ball low into Mignolet’s right hand corner with his left foot to give Solskjær’s men the lead for a second time in the match.
Reds skipper Steven Gerrard was fortunate to remain on the pitch after giving away a free kick in a dangerous position wide on the left after twenty eight minutes, fouling full-back Declan John. Bellamy’s right footed free kick was held well by Belgian keeper Simon Mignolet.
Former Sevilla defender Juan Cala was booked for kicking the ball away on thirty two minutes as the away side were awarded a free kick. Suarez and Gerrard stood over the ball with Suarez’s set piece cannoning off the wall for a corner. Former Swansea man Joe Allen’s tame attempt failed to trouble Marshall from this dead ball situation.
Brendan Rodgers men continued pressuring for their second equaliser with Marshall denying Sturridge his nineteenth Premier League goal of the season after the England forward’s powerful strike was deflected towards goal.
Second placed Liverpool levelled for the second time after forty one minutes when Brazilian International Coutinho’s curling ball into the box from the right was diverted into the back of the net by Slovakian defender Martin Skrtel.
David Marshall stopped Liverpool from scoring in added time with Suarez, Allan and Johnson combining to play through the Uruguayan but the City Number one produced a fantastic dive to keep the scores level at the break following a highly entertaining opening forty five minutes.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 2-2 LIVERPOOL
The away side took the lead for the first time in this match after fifty seven minutes in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Both Mutch and Théophile-Catherine were forced to watch Coutinho’s corner from the side-lines after receiving on-field treatment with Skrtel rising highest to nod the Reds ahead.
Rodgers’ men increased this advantage three minutes later when the Sturridge and Suarez combined within the penalty area to lethal effect. Théophile-Catherine blocking the original cross from Johnson but Sturridge’s quick thinking saw the forward exquisitely find Suarez in space with a back heel for Suarez to strike past Marshall.
The Bluebirds nearly reduced the deficit after sixty four minutes when Campbell’s hard work earned them a corner. Bellamy’s set piece ricocheted off a combination of Fábio and Mutch with the ball somehow going over the crossbar from close range.
The City manager made two changes on sixty five minutes with Mats Møller Dæhli and Wilfried Zaha coming on for Declan John and Kim Bo-Kyung as the home side looked to find a way back into this exciting match. They were joined five minutes later by Kenwyne Jones with former Reds man Craig Bellamy given a rapturous applause from the entire stadium as he left the field of play.
Liverpool scored their fifth goal of an incredible afternoon after seventy five minutes with their attacking duo causing City no end of problems once more. Johnson’s long ball from the right side of defence defied Cardiff skipper Caulker with Suarez’s through ball met by Sturridge who fired the ball in.
Tricky winger Wilfried Zaha went close to scoring after seventy eight minutes, beating the Reds defence to the ball but his low shot trickled wide as City looked for a way back into this match.
Solskjær’s men never gave up and came within two goals of a draw after eighty eight minutes when Théophile-Catherine’s brilliant cross was unselfishly met by substitute Jones with former Birmingham City man Mutch capping off a fine individual performance with his second of the afternoon, nodding the ball beyond Mignolet to give the home side hope once more.
The hosts bombarded the away goal in the five minutes of added time, but the last word was for Liverpool and in particular Suarez with the forward counter at pace, beating Cala to ball and picking his spot past Marshall to seal his hat-trick and all three points for the title contenders. An incredible spectacle for all within Cardiff City Stadium to watch with the Bluebirds taking many positives from this determined performance into next week’s crucial clash at West Bromwich Albion.
FULL-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 3-6 LIVERPOOL
Cardiff City: Marshall, Fábio, Caulker, Cala, Théophile-Catherine, Medel, John (Dæhli, 65), Mutch, Kim (Zaha, 65), Campbell, Bellamy (Jones, 70). Subs not used: Lewis, Turner, Whittingham, Gunnarsson.
Goals: Mutch (9, 88), Campbell (25)
Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Flanagan (Cissokho, 72), Allen, Henderson, Coutinho (Sterling, 68), Gerrard, Suarez, Sturridge (Sakho, 90). Subs not used: Jones, Aspas, Moses, Leiva.
Goals: Luis Suarez (16, 60, 90), Martin Skrtel (41, 57), Daniel Sturridge (75)
Attendance: 28,018 (Cardiff City Stadium)