Cardiff v Liverpool ratings as Georginio Wijnaldum leads Reds to crucial win

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Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League table and ensured that the pressure is back on Manchester City with a convincing 2-0 win over Cardiff City.

Jurgen Klopp’s men took their time to get into the game, but goals by Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner in the second half saw the Reds take home all three points.

We take a look at how the players performed in this crucial win.

LIVERPOOL

Alisson 8: Couple of brilliant saves from the Brazilian, most notably after Oumar Niasse’s shot following Victor Camarasa’s mishit volley.

Andrew Robertson 6: Not a wrong foot in defence, but the left-back has had more productive days in attack.

Virgil van Dijk 8: Yet another solid performance at the back. Locked the metaphorical door and dealt with any danger Cardiff produced.

Joel Matip 7: Provided able support to Van Dijk in warding off any aerial threat. A solid performance by the third choice centre-back.

Trent Alexander-Arnold 7: Mendez-Laing had the right-back bite the dust a couple of times but the youngster won the duels that mattered and also provided an assist from a corner.

Jordan Henderson 7: A couple of misplaced passes should not take away much from a good shift in central midfield. Won a few 50-50s and helped control the midfield.

Georginio Wijnaldum 9: A goal just tops what was a great performance in midfield by Wijnaldum. Controlled the tempo and helped set off counters.

Naby Keita 8: Won balls in midfield and played progressive passes, replaced by Fabinho after playing as a work-horse for 70 minutes.

Mohamed Salah 7: Some dazzling runs from the Egyptian though should have scored in the first half. Won the penalty that produced Liverpool’s insurance goal.

Roberto Firmino 6: Looked a touch off for huge chunks of the game and missed a very easy chance that a striker of his calibre should put away with closed eyes.

Sadio Mane 7: Best player in Liverpool’s front-line, like he has been this entire season. Mane’s pace produced some nervy moments for Cardiff, but the Senegalese failed to make any of those count.

Substitutes

Fabinho N/A: Came on for Keita and had an injury ruin his evening, left the pitch after four minutes.

James Milner 8: Replaced Fabinho and smashed home a penalty to give his team some breathing space.

Joe Gomez N/A: Came on for Alexander-Arnold in the last few minutes of the game.

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Liverpool reaping the rewards of a much improved Mohamed Salah, says John Barnes

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Salah enjoyed a stunning 2017/18 - breaking the scoring record for a 38-game Premier League season.

Mohamed Salah may not quite be hitting the dizzying individual heights of last season, but Jurgen Klopp is turning him into a more well-rounded player and Liverpool are reaping the rewards.

That is the opinion of former Reds star John Barnes, who claims Salah is actually enjoying a better campaign this year than his stellar season of 12 months ago – one in which he scored 32 league goals in 36 games to break the record for most in a 38-game league season.

It was a campaign in which Salah’s stupendous goal-scoring exploits fired Liverpool into the Champions League final – where they eventually lost 3-1 to Real Madrid.

But Barnes insists he’d rather see his old club fighting tooth and nail with “one of the best teams in premier League history” in Manchester City for the English top-flight title instead of finishing a mammoth 25 points adrift of Pep Guardiola’s dominant champions like they did a year ago.

Salah has, unfathomably, come in for stinging criticism from outside Anfield this season for falling short of last term’s, admittedly stunning, tally.

This despite the fact he is still joint top scorer in the Premier League this season with 19 goals – alongside City’s scintillating Sergio Aguero – while he has seven assists, only three shy of 2017/18.

His lesser impact is down to a mix of Salah working harder defensively, shouldering a bigger creative burden and working harder defensively as Liverpool have married last season’s style with substance this term.

Virgil van Dijk's addition has solidified the Reds.

Virgil van Dijk’s addition has solidified the Reds.

“He’s had a better season this year,” said Barnes, who spent a decade at Anfield, speaking exclusively to Sport360 in Dubai.

“The team is top of the league whereas last year he was top scorer in a team that finished fourth. It doesn’t matter if he scores 40 goals. Would you rather Salah do that and finish fifth or Salah score 20 goals and the team finish first?

“The whole idea he’s having a worse season is ridiculous, I think he’s having a better season. Obviously, the team plays differently now. He’s helped the team do better while still being one of the main players.”

Salah was always fighting a losing battle to match such mesmeric standards he set 12 months ago – a campaign in which he netted an unbelievable 44 goals in 52 games in all competitions.

He surpassed the feats of former Liverpool hotshot Luis Suarez and ex-Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo who each scored 31 league goals in 2013/14 and 2007/08 respectively.

And yet, the 26-year-old has still been dazzling. Whether by choice or the design of his coach, the focus has fallen on team-mates like Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk, as well as the collective.

But it is a tactic that was necessary if Klopp – without a trophy in three-and-a-half years as Reds’ boss – is to end the club’s 29-year top-flight league title drought.

Barnes, who was part of the last Liverpool side to lift a league championship with Liverpool, in 1989/90, knows Klopp is focused on the bigger picture, while also making Salah a better player overall.

Asked if Klopp’s shift this season to improve both player and team – bringing in Dutch defender Van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson to make them difficult to score against in addition to playing breathtaking, attacking football, Barnes said: “Absolutely.

“That’s where Chelsea have fallen down. It’s all about Eden Hazard. He’s been doing fantastically well but no-one else on the team has.

“If Hazard didn’t dribble as much and passed more you’d see more of the other players and the team doing better. I’m not a fan of individuals doing better than the team.

“Last year we were conceding a lot of goals. Now we’re defending more and playing more consistently as a team when we haven’t got the ball.

“Salah’s probably working harder defensively, he’s passing the ball more now, and other players are scoring which means he’ll score less. We had a similar situation with (Robbie) Fowler and (Stan) Collymore where they were scoring a lot of goals.

“If somebody scores goals, somebody else will score less. The fact that Mane, (Roberto) Firmino and midfield players are scoring means Salah will score less. It means the team’s playing better.”

As for the Messiah-like moulding of last season’s magician, Klopp is coaxing the best out of his team too. One that Barnes believes is on the cusp of something special.

Barnes won two league titles with Liverpool - his last, in 1989/90, was the last time the club were kings of England.

Barnes won two league titles with Liverpool – his last, in 1989/90, was the last time the club were kings of England.

Who knows what would have happened had the five-time winners not lost talisman Salah to a first-half injury in controversial circumstances in Kiev last May – but Barnes, like Klopp, is eyeing the bigger picture.

“I think Liverpool could be on cusp of something special, absolutely,” added Barnes, who will take part in the DHL Swing Against Cancer Golf Series which gets under way with the DHL Open at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club on May 2.

“Would I rather get to the Champions League final last year and finish 25 points off the top of the league, or finish second, one point off the top and not won a trophy? I’d much rather be one point off the top because that shows you the team you are week in, week out.

“There’s no point getting to the Champions League final but finishing fourth or fifth, 20 points off the top. That’s not a good team. That shows you can be lucky to get to the Champions League final whereas to do what you do in the league shows you the team you really are.

“A lot of fans talk about not winning anything (this year) and what if we lose out. It will be a disappointment but think about what we’ve done, having lost one game all year.

“We’re up against one of the best teams in premier League history. We can’t control what Man City have done, we can only control what we’ve done and we’ve been excellent.”

*To enter the DHL Open or any DHL Swing Against Cancer Golf Series event or to attend any of the evening events, email: [email protected]

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Former Liverpool defender Jose Enrique given all-clear following brain tumour

Sport360 staff 16/04/2019
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Ex-Liverpool and Newcastle defender Jose Enrique announced that he has been given the all-clear after a rare brain tumour.

The Spaniard sustained several injuries in the twilight of his career, forcing him to retire at the age of 33 in September 2017. But he later revealed that he was also diagnosed with a life-threatening tumour in his brain.

After several radiotherapy sessions and a lengthy recovery process, Enrique was finally given the all-clear. The former defender took to social media to express his happiness.

“Hello guys, I just have some wonderful news today,” Enrique told his social media followers.

“I just got back the report from the MRI I had just a week and a half ago.

“I just wanted to let you know, because the support from all of you has been amazing, that it’s all clear, all perfect. Obviously when I received the news, me and Amy were together and even the dog, I think, understood it as well – and we’re so happy about it.

“I can look forward now, not back anymore and just keep fighting. So it’s all clear and perfect. Thank you, guys.”

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