Neil Atkinson’s post-match review after Liverpool 3 Cardiff City 1 in the FA Cup fourth round at Anfield, and Reds everywhere have reason to be excited…
“IS this a library?” They sang in Cockernee for reasons that always escape me.
But. Anfield is awash with studious players. From Kostas Tsimikas, who has figured out the perfectly angled ball to pull Cardiff to the left and stretch them out of shape, to Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is a connoisseur of the sling shot crossfield placing the ball at the field of Diogo Jota. These are well educated players, well practised in Jurgen Klopp’s brand of learned football. Caoimhin Kelleher in goal makes early mistakes, but this is the Anfield library of studious football and he gets better as the game goes on.
This is a cup game from which they will all learn. Cardiff are tall and strong. Liverpool are fast and (for the most part) sharp.
Apart from the wind. The wind absolutely skews the contest throughout. Over and over we find ourselves not able to read where it will drop. It turns volleys into headers. It is MOM.
Liverpool are set up for attack, and therefore Cardiff must set up to defend. Defensively Cardiff are capable, so one team must out tactic the other. If Liverpool are to win they must find a way. And its the clever angles Tsimikas and Alexander-Arnold find that undo the Welsh team. Cardiff are too flat for Liverpool. And in the end, too slow. We are bright, and clever.
“In your Swansea slums.”
You have to assume this is a massive game for Cardiff. They are one of those sides that have cycled in and out of the Premier League and a cup tie like this should be full of opportunity. Much bigger than some local rivalry. Their hope is to catch us on the break. Ibrahima Konate and, especially, Virgil van Dijk do well through 90 per cent of the game to prevent this. They spend a fair amount of the first half patrolling backwards as forwards, particularly Harris, attempt to get past.
Van Dijk is man of the match. He is the player who tames the wind best. He is magnificent. Unerring. He’s the footballer of a lifetime and today he shows it in mundane circumstances.
In the middle, Jordan Henderson does his best to hold up and retaliate against some fairly industrial play. Curtis Jones’ passing is better, and Takumi Minamino brings pace and confusion in the face of a frequently pulled shirt and pushes on his back. Jota looks likely and it never seemed like we wouldn’t score.
As the second half opens, Liverpool’s goal keeper finds himself chasing after one of them slightly below and to the right of the centre line. He lashes out and gets a yellow for his trouble. The Cardiff fans swear blind it is a red card and you can hear them silently hope that Liverpool down to 10 men might give them the dream they are looking for. But sadly for them, it is not to be. The hypothetical pace of Konate comes to his aid in my view.
“3-0 and you still don’t sing.”
The first half was a bit frustrating for Liverpool. All of the cleverness lacked final result. Roberto Firmino, Jones and Jota have great chances that just don’t succeed.
Liverpool ground staff water the pitch through half time, clearly not having seen the weather report that the heavens would open with a huge down pour in the second half. But their objective is clear. Liverpool have figured Cardiff out. The answer is to make the ball go fast. Very fast. Play fast.
And as a result the goals come. The strength of passing is rewarded with clear chances that are buried by Jota, then Minamino within 15 minutes. Bang. Bang.
And now the great reward for the Anfield masses. Our new player. Turns out he is the biggest speed merchant of all. Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott (welcome home, lad) come on around the 60 mark and it is frankly fabulous to see both of them marauding round the pitch.
Elliott is rewarded with a goal of his very own after the rough time he has had and Diaz looked every inch a person enjoying himself (welcome home, lad). It’s a very good thing to have a football team that the best in the world want to join. Talent brings talent and the canny team behind Klopp’s vision know this.
“We support our local team.”
So do we. It’s our local team whether we hail from Kigali, Kilkenny or Kensington, whether we come from Scotland, Sunderland or Senegal. Ever since John Houlding built a team of Macs, people have come from outside the city of Liverpool to become Scousers. I will always maintain the best Liverpudlians come from outside the city. Luis Diaz can add himself to the list but away from the pitch people add themselves to this list every day.
This is who we are. Every match at Anfield welcomes people from all corners of the globe, on and off the pitch. It is who we are and what we do. It is the best of us. For those fans of other teams who don’t understand it or like it, I pity them. Their parochialism makes them weak not strong.
Liverpool outrun, outplay, outmanoeuvre and outheart Cardiff City today. They should. They are a better paid, better scouted, better schooled team. They are smarter than ever.
Two wins from Wembley. Three from the final. All fronts available. Have a front. There are loads available.
“van Dijk was absolutely incredible. There was so much room for error with the conditions but he doesn’t put a foot wrong. I’m delighted with all the cameos off the bench.”
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— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) February 6, 2022