Liverpool regained their place at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Cardiff City on Sunday that restored their two-point lead over Manchester City.
Juergen Klopp’s side, who have lost just once in the league all season, have 88 points, a club record in the Premier League era, while City, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 on Saturday, are on 86 but have a game in hand.
That extra game for City will be played on Wednesday when Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United and the champions will make the short trip with the pressure firmly back on.
Against a Cardiff side battling for Premier League survival, it was a confident, patient performance from Liverpool who have now enjoyed nine straight wins in all competitions.
“It was prepared to be a proper banana skin and we knew that, the boys were unbelievable. It was clear, difficult for all of us,” said Klopp.
“The boys try really with all they have, we only speak about the things we have to do.”
“Their attitude is outstanding and it’s a tough season but a very positive one as well,” added the German.
Cardiff defended deep and in numbers and limited Liverpool’s opportunities but Roberto Firmino missed a great chance to open the scoring in the 22nd minute, finding himself one-on-one with keeper Neil Etheridge but lifting the ball over the bar.
Etheridge was then quick off his line to save with his legs from Mohamed Salah while Cardiff offered a warning when Alisson Becker tipped over Oumar Niasse’s close-range effort.
After an intense spell of pressure following the interval, Georginio Wijnaldum broke the deadlock for Liverpool in fine style with a first-time strike from a clever short corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Sean Morrison then missed a golden opportunity for relegation-threatened Cardiff to equalise, making a hash of a header when he had an open goal at his mercy after Alisson misjudged a cross.
Late in the game, Morrison was judged to have pulled down Mohamed Salah in the box and substitute James Milner converted the 81st-minute penalty to make sure of the crucial three points for Klopp’s side.
Liverpool’s ability to avoid slip-ups against lowly opposition has been a key part of their season — they have taken 52 points from a possible 54 against teams in the bottom half of the table.
Cardiff remain in 18th place, the final relegation spot, and are three points behind 17th placed Brighton & Hove Albion, having played a game more.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ian Chadband