Wijnaldum and James Milner supplied second half goals for Liverpool who return to the top of the table: “We had to work for it” said a relieved Jürgen Klopp.
A relieved Jürgen Klopp extolled the efforts of his players who had to grind out a 0-2 win away at relegation-fighting Cardiff City this afternoon. The result enables his Liverpool side to nudge Manchester City off top spot in the Premier League table in what is turning into a an engaging battle for the title with leadership changing hands from one week to the next. It leaves the Reds on 88 points - nine points more than they needed when they last won the league - also in a 20-team division, back in 1989/90.
Club points record under threat
So hard have Liverpool been made to fight in this season's title race, they are only two points short of the club points record - 90 points set over 40 games in 1987/8. They will undoubtedly break that this season with a possible nine points up for grabs in their three remaining games against Huddersfield Town, Newcastle and Wolves.
Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner hit second half goals for the Merseysiders in another fierce test in Cardiff today and Klopp admitted afterwards that his team were pushed to the very limits. "It was so difficult; if you say that before the game, everyone looks at you like you’re not allowed to say it. Going to Cardiff, you have to work there", he told the press room after the game. "We spoke a lot about this game, how special it is, how special the situation is for the opponent just to make clear what we had to do today. It was not a game for a little bit of playing around, it was a game for a 100 per cent fight, a battle of will again and who wants it more? In difficult circumstances; the circumstances were all a bit in favour of the team who doesn’t have the ball that often. The ball doesn’t roll like normally, everybody saw it. I can speak about it today because a few guys from Sky said they spoke about it as well, so then maybe it is allowed. It doesn’t make football easy when the pitch is dry. It is dangerous as well for injuries, but it doesn’t make it easy".
Cardiff almost pulled a goal back late on when a ball into the box found Sean Morrison at the back post and with the goal gaping but the striker somehow sent his diving header past the post - not that it would have stood, the Liverpool manager was quick to point out. "I think the big chance they had [Morrison's header], the ref told me it would have been a foul on Ali, so it wouldn’t have been a goal. We had the ball anyway, so all good in that. We defended these set-pieces brilliantly and used a set-piece in a fantastic way, it was so smart".
It was Gini Wijnaldum's 56th strike which finally set Liverpool on their way - the Dutch midfielder meeting Alexander-Arnold's corner first time to thrash the ball past Neil Etheridge and inside the near post. "We used experience from the first half for that corner in the second half; it was not from the training ground, it was from the dressing room at half-time when the boys decided to do that", Klopp explained. "I love that, a brilliant goal. The second goal, I think we counter-pressed four times, won the ball and then I think there is no doubt about it, if the defender uses the hands five times then it is a penalty. Millie finished it off".
Overall, Klopp summarised, "A brilliant day – and even Fabinho should be OK. He was a bit dizzy. In that game, you need to be 100 per cent or out. At that moment, he couldn’t play at 100 per cent, so we made that change after a minute. But he is fine".
Liverpool top the standings on 88 points - two points who clear of City who play their game in hand away at Manchester United on Wednesday.