Harvey Elliott seals feel-good Liverpool FA Cup win over Cardiff on injury return

Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff: Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino put the Reds in control before Elliott stole the show and Luis Diaz showed promise on his debut

Melissa Reddy
Sunday 06 February 2022 15:12
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<p>Harvey Elliott celebrates his first Liverpool goal after a five-month injury lay-off </p>

Harvey Elliott celebrates his first Liverpool goal after a five-month injury lay-off

No matter where you looked against Cardiff City at Anfield, the storylines were golden for Liverpool. It wasn’t the prettiest FA Cup triumph, nor the most memorable, but signalled growing strength for the second half of the season beyond a fifth-round hosting of Norwich.

Sunday’s early kick-off was doused in good vibes for Jurgen Klopp’s men; a return to the squad for Harvey Elliott after a five-month ankle injury lay-off, and a first sighting of new attacking recruit Luis Diaz. Both walked onto the Anfield turf to rapturous applause in the second half, after Diogo Jota’s header ensured the optimistic mood was not killed.

Both drew even more acclaim for ballooning the scoreline, Diaz offering dazzling feet and an instant impact to set up Liverpool’s second, while Elliott provided a tasty first touch and thundering volley to wrap up victory. Cardiff got a goal, but not much joy as mere backdrop during a hugely promising afternoon for the Merseysiders.

Jota was an unsurprising opening scorer, with shock only applied to his miss five minutes into the encounter. Naby Keita, fresh from Africa Cup of Nations duty, had supplied Jota, who spun with his back to goal a couple of yards inside the penalty area and backheeled the ball through the legs of Oliver Denham.

Having created space and the opportunity for a free strike, he atypically aimed too close to goalkeeper Dillon Phillips.

Liverpool controlled possession in the first half, but did not create enough with Cardiff often frustrating them into nothing shots from distance.

Takumi Minamino did put the ball past Phillips, but Kostas Tsimikas was offside in the build-up down the left before delivering the cross.

Elliott and teammate Andrew Robertson acknowledge the fans after the fourth-round victory

Cardiff then had their first of two “what if” moments that could have altered the complexion of the game and cut into Liverpool’s happy afternoon.

With 19 minutes on the clock, Mark Harris drove in from the left, motioned in front of Ibrahima Konate and went down.

The defender was the wrong side and did make slight contact, but referee Andy Madley waved away the penalty shout and a VAR check followed suit.

Then, straight after the interval, Caoimhin Kelleher made a rare misjudgement and rushed out to stop Harris reaching the ball.

Liverpool’s goalkeeper only made reckless contact with the Cardiff forward and picked up a yellow, but VAR considered serious foul play as well as whether a goal-scoring chance was denied.

The hosts escaped without any further punishment and would quickly penalise their opponents.

Less than 10 minutes after Kelleher feared a possible sending off, Trent Alexander-Arnold sent in a glorious free-kick that Jota used to showcase his prowess in the air.

The Portugal international got the power and placement of his header perfect, directing the ball inside the far post. The breakthrough Liverpool were desperate for led to the blitzing of Cardiff’s resistance.

Perry Ng tried to usher the ball back to his goalie, but Phillips made no attempt to claim it, allowing Diaz to take possession instead. His pull-back evaded Jota but was rocketed in by Minamino.

Luis Diaz provided an assist on his Liverpool debut

Liverpool’s new boy had only been on 10 minutes before adding a decisive edge. Elliott would then have his moment after Mark McGuinness slipped. With room to manoeuvre, the youngster took a neat touch before swivelling and burying a brilliant volley.

Another cracking finish came against the run of play at the other end. Cardiff stole the ball on halfway and broke rapidly with Isaak Davies releasing Rubin Colwill on the edge of the area.

He smashed a low drive past Kelleher to offer the away end some cheer.

There was concern over Diaz after he collided with Aden Flint while challenging for a header, but the Colombian shook off the scrape of studs to his knee and kept the good vibes intact.

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