Liverpool players came up with a game-changing corner routine during the half-time break at Cardiff City Stadium.
The teams were locked at 0-0 and the Bluebirds were matching their visitors when Georginio Wijnaldum smashed home just before the hour on the way to a 2-0 win.
“That wasn’t from the training ground , far from it,” said Jurgen Klopp. “The boys decided to do that during half-time.
“They see what is happening from a players viewpoint and came up with the idea to play the corner in flat and leave a man spare.”
Cardiff’s man-marking system was pulled apart as Virgil van Dijk made a run which sucked in Sean Morrison and Lee Peltier and, just as the Reds had planned, Dutch ace Wijnaldum was free and fired home first time from 18 yards.
“I like players taking the initiative,” said Klopp. “It doesn’t happen often enough. It was a way around Cardiff’s man marking, but he still had to strike his shot well.
“That was brilliant. I love it.”
Liverpool won thanks to Wijnaldum’s goal after 57 minutes and a James Milner penalty late on.
Cardiff’s best chances fell to Sean Morrison, Oumar Niasse and Junior Hoilett, but they couldn’t find the goal their play deserved.
The Bluebirds are starting to look a team with Premier League potential and they certainly stepped up in front of more than 33,000 spectators.
Mo Salah and the Cardiff City Stadium pitch were both talking points after a hard-fought match which manager Neil Warnock’s team can reflect on with pride.
Salah went down far too easily when he won the penalty which led to Liverpool’s second goal, crashing to the pitch in dramatic style as Morrison challenged.
One radio commentary described the moment as ‘cheating’ and ’simulation’. That may be harsh, but Salah certainly went down far too easily.
Warnock said it was a ‘soft’ penalty, adding: “We gave the referee an opportunity to make the decision.
“The end of the situation, though, was a 9.9 Tom Daley diving board job.”
Morrison put himself in danger of conceding the penalty by having his arms around Salah for too long as the striker tried to find space inside the penalty area.
Klopp’s post-match press briefing was brutally honest and he complained that the Cardiff pitch was too dry, saying: That doesn’t make football easy.
“Dry pitches are dangerous for the players injury wise. Ask players whether they want a wet pitch. Everything is better.”
Klopp, though, had prepared his players for their test against Cardiff by insisting groundsmen at Liverpool’s training ground allowed the grass to grow. He also ordered them to keep out dry.
“We were prepared for what happened and trained in those conditions,” he said.
Bluebirds’ boss Warnock smiled when he heard what Klopp had said, adding: “The pitch was watered before game. It wasn’t dangerous.”
"WHAT A FINISH!!" 🙌
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 21, 2019
Klopp even had a dig at Cardiff City fans, saying: “The atmosphere was great, but I don’t agree that any failure of opponents is cheered.
“Why was it that if we missed a chance they were the loudest moments? But Cardiff is brilliant city, I’d like to come on holiday here.”
Cardiff took on the Liverpool challenge with a relish, defending solidly and breaking with pace and intent. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing had the beating of Trent Alexander-Arnol.
“The players did well,” said Warnock. “We wanted to give them a game and attack when we could. The plan was to have a go at them whenever we could.
“But there isn’t a weakness in their team. It’s a fabulous Premier League title race. Both sides in it are unbelievable.
“They are both miles ahead of anybody. Liverpool’s front three are second to none.”
“We are still fighting. Cardiff fans were fabulous – the noise was great.”
While Liverpool continue their quest for Premier and European success, Cardiff are intent on winning at Fulham. That is crucial if they are to maintain hopes of staying up.”
Cardiff City: Neil Etheridge, Lee Peltier, Sean Morrison (capt), Bruno Manga, Joe Bennett, Joe Ralls (Leandro Bacuna 78), Aron Gunnarsson, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Victor Camarasa, Oumar Niasse (Kenneth Zohore 66), Junior Hoilett (Josh Murphy 84).
Liverpool: Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Georgina Wijnaldum, Naby Keita (Fabinho 71, James Milner 75), Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Jordan Henderson, Andrew Robertson, Joel Matip, Trent Alexander-Arnol Joseph Gomez 86). Subs: Simon Mognolet (gk), Daniel Sturridge, Xherdan Shqiri, Divock Origi.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.