LONDON • Neil Warnock had claimed in the lead-up to Cardiff's Premier League game at Anfield that a win was "virtually impossible" and the Bluebirds manager was correct in his assertion after his side were thrashed 4-1 by Liverpool yesterday.
Although there was a shock for the home fans as Cardiff became the first opposition team to score a league goal on Merseyside for 918 minutes, Jurgen Klopp's men returned to the top of the table as a matter of routine and without challenge.
Mohamed Salah scored his 51st goal in 66 appearances for Liverpool and also provided two assists, for substitute Xherdan Shaqiri and Sadio Mane, as the hosts cruised to the summit of English football's top flight.
Mane struck twice while Callum Paterson's consolation for the visitors spoilt Alisson's aims of a seventh clean sheet this term.
After pulling the strings in Liverpool's 4-0 Champions League thrashing of Red Star Belgrade in midweek, Shaqiri must have been disappointed to find himself benched in favour of Adam Lallana.
But if he was frustrated, the Switzerland winger did his talking on the pitch after coming on to score his first league goal since moving in the summer for £13.5 million (S$23.9 million) from Stoke.
"I was very pleased to score, I was waiting a few games for this. I am proud to score my first goal here in front of the fans and hope I can keep doing this," he told BBC Sport in his post-match interview.
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"The manager told me to go and enjoy the game, to help the team, to play my game. I try to do my best all the time, so today was good for me.
"We are a top team, to be successful, we have to win these games. They (Cardiff) are tough, not always nice to play. It is the beginning of the season, so we have to keep going like this. If we do, we are going to have a successful year."
Liverpool enjoyed 86 per cent possession and completed 412 passes to Cardiff's 35 in a ridiculously one-sided first half where the only topic of note was their inability to add to Salah's opener.
Given the hosts' complete dominance and the Egypt international's remarkable goal-scoring record at Anfield, it was no surprise when he pounced to give Liverpool a 10th-minute lead for his 33rd goal in 35 Anfield appearances.
Cardiff did work themselves into promising situations either side of the interval, but lacked the quality and awareness to make the final ball count, and they fell further behind when Mane rifled into the far corner in the 66th minute.
Remarkably, and completely out of context with the flow of the game, the visitors ended the Reds' proud record of clean sheets in the league at Anfield this season when Paterson reduced the deficit with 13 minutes remaining.
But there would be no comeback after Shaqiri, who injected greater urgency into Liverpool's performance, converted a fine third late on.
Their fourth was equally impressive, with Salah again the provider. He pierced Cardiff's defence with a perfectly weighted ball that Mane clipped over the advancing Neil Etheridge.
Afterwards, Mane told BBC Sport that while they "had to be patient", it was ultimately a "deserved win".