Liverpool made hard work of seeing off Cardiff City, but Brendan Rodgers’ men ultimately romped to a 6-3 win on Saturday to keep their title challenge on track.
The Reds were well short of their best in the first half and fell behind on two occasions, but there is a resolve about Liverpool this season. Martin Skrtel netted either side of half-time and Luis Suarez grabbed a hat-trick to set them on their way to the win that kept them within four points of Chelsea.
Liverpool made a slovenly start, which was summed up by Steven Gerrard’s booking for a foul on Fraizer Campbell as Cardiff threatened to run riot.
Simon Mignolet was forced to make a save by Kim Bo-Kyung, and from the resulting corner, Kevin Theophile-Catherine blasted over.
Having fired a couple of shots across Liverpool’s bow early on, Cardiff hit the target on nine minutes.
Joe Allen gave the ball away deep in his own half and Cardiff made him pay. Campbell slipped the ball into Jordon Mutch, who curled a low shot into the corner.
Liverpool were level within seven minutes, with that man Luis Suarez once again on target. A superb pass from Jordan Henderson played Glenn Johnson in behind the Cardiff defence and he placed the ball on a plate for Suarez to sweep home.
For a side who may be low on confidence given their lowly league position, Cardiff regrouped swiftly.
Campbell served notice of his threat when heading over the bar, and shortly afterward he found his range in style.
Collecting possession on the edge of the area, he dragged the ball inside onto his left foot and curled the ball home.
A key moment arrived on 28 minutes, as Gerrard dumped Declan John on the turf but escaped a caution that would have resulted in his dismissal.
Liverpool struggled to assert themselves, but Skrtel dragged them level on 41 minutes. The defender simply showed the greater desire to get on the end of a cross and stabbed the ball beyond David Marshall.
For all the talk of Liverpool’s deadly attackers, it was Skrtel who grabbed his second of the match on 54 minutes to put the Reds in front.
That's 150 goals for #LFC under Brendan Rodgers in the PL - achieved in 68 games. Tra la la la la...— Melissa Reddy (@1stLadyOfFooty) March 22, 2014
Again, the defender showed tremendous desire to meet a ball into the box and his header found its way into the corner, although Cardiff may feel somewhat aggrieved as they only had nine men on the field at the time of the goal as two of their players were receiving treatment.
Any thoughts of a Cardiff revival were snuffed out on the hour, as Suarez grabbed his second of the game.
It was a simple finish, but the goal owed much to a quite brilliant backheel into the Uruguayan’s path from Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge got the goal his display merited on 75 minutes. As Cardiff wilted, Suarez collected a long ball before playing the ball into his attacking partner's pass for a simple goal.
Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have now scored 46 goals between them in the EPL this season, the same amount as Man United.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 22, 2014
Mutch was one of Cardiff's better players on the day and he nodded home his second on 88 minutes, but it was nothing more than a consolation for a side who look destined for the drop.
It was Suarez who had the final say, as he broke clear and took his time before beating Marshall to complete his hat-trick.
Suarez will take the plaudits for his hat-trick and he feels the goals are reward for his hard work. Speaking to Sky Sports, Suarez said: “I work every week to work hard on the pitch for Liverpool and I try my best for the team.”
When asked about Liverpool’s title chances, Suarez said: “We will keep going and work very hard and have the focus. To win the title is so difficult, but we are concentrating and that is important.”
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Liverpool have huge top-of-the-table clashes with Manchester City and Chelsea ahead in April, but prior to those games they welcome Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur to Anfield.
Having worked their way into a challenge position with less than two months of the season to run, the Reds will not be able to drop points on home soil if they are to bring the title to Merseyside.