London: Sadio Mane scored a brace of goals and Mohammad Salah continued his return to form as Liverpool moved to the summit of the Premier League with a comfortable 4-1 victory against lowly Cardiff City at Anfield on Saturday.
Salah ended any suggestion he was suffering a ‘goal drought’ when he converted from close range after Mane’s shot was parried in the ninth minute — his fourth goal in three matches.
Liverpool enjoyed 86 per cent possession and had 12 shots in a commanding first half, the only surprise being that Juergen Klopp’s side did not add a second goal before the break.
It took until the 66th minute for Liverpool to add a second, with Mane wriggling through a couple of challenges before unleashing a fierce drive into the corner with his left foot.
Cardiff City set up a potentially nervy finish when Callum Paterson scored in the 77th minute, but Xherdan Shaqiri and Mane put the game to bed with late efforts.
Liverpool, still unbeaten and winners of eight of their 10 matches, have 26 points — three clear of champions Manchester City who will reclaim top spot if they beat Tottenham Hotspur on Monday evening. Neil Warnock’s Cardiff side remain 17th with just five points from their opening 10 matches.
City manager Pep Guardiola is expecting a much closer Premier League title race this season compared to the last campaign.
Defending champions City romped to the title in record-breaking fashion under Guardiola last season, finishing 19 points clear of second-placed Manchester United.
But with the top five teams separated by two points after the first nine games, Guardiola says his league leaders will have a far tougher fight on their hands to defend their title this season.
“I don’t have doubt about that. Two points difference in five, six teams. It’s strong,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday.
“Spurs play with five at the back sometimes, sometimes diamond, sometimes 4-2-3-1. They can use it and change again,” Guardiola added.
“When you know a team does the same thing, it’s easier to control it... they can change it. You have to be prepared.”
Wembley will host an NFL game between Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, raising concerns about the condition of the pitch, but Guardiola said his team would have no complaints about the playing surface.
“It is what it is,” he added. “It’s not necessary to complain about that. We have to adapt quickly and try to figure out the pitch will not be in perfect conditions and adapt. We have to do it.”