Check back at the end of the match for full Liverpool vs Cardiff player ratings.
Every game for Liverpool is a “must win” to close out the season if they want to capture their first Premier League title and English championship in 29 years. Manchester City kept the pressure on with a 1-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday.
Having overcome one of their two remaining real challenges, City’s win moved betting markets, as FanDuel Sportsbook NJ priced them at -190 (from -145 a week ago) and dropped Liverpool from -115 to +140.
With their place in the 2019 UEFA Champions League semifinals secured, Liverpool used the game to rotate players again though not as much as some expected. Joe Gomez is back but on the bench. Fabinho got rested. Naby Keita was back in. The long-awaited return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would have to wait some more as he wasn’t part of the squad.
Cardiff is still fighting for their relegation lives and brought their best game early despite loud Liverpool “allez allez allez’s” drowning out the home crowd. Liverpool dominated the first half, out-possessing 79-21% and out-shooting them 7 (3 on target) to 3 (1 on target). Still, at the half the score was level 0-0.
In the second half, Liverpool remained the better team, finally going up in the 57th on a stunner Gini Wijnaldum strike. Sub James Milner converted a Time 100 Most Influential People in the World Mo Salah-earned penalty to ice the game 2-0 in the 81st. Liverpool dominated this one by any and all measures.
Jurgen Klopp (7) – Didn’t rotate the line-up as much as expected, but for good reason. Cardiff was, if nothing else, going to play a spirited match. In a recurring theme, got his team stronger after half-time to lead them back atop the table.
Alisson (7) – Had nothing to do until the final minutes of the first half, coming up with a crucial stop. Wasn’t challenged much but showed up when he was.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (7) – Beautiful service with his left foot to Firmino in the 3rd minute could’ve led to a scoring opportunity if not for Bobby’s off-sides. Got beat (and slipped) on a thrilling run by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing in the 25th minute. Attacking though he’s such a threat. Found Mane with a brilliant cross in the 31st.
In the second half continued getting up the field. Missed on a wild but strong strike in the 55th minute. Then just two minutes later his corner delivery to Gini put Liverpool up 1-0. It was their league-leading 13th corner goal of the season.
Regardless, as strong as he was offensively, he struggled with Mendez-Laing all match. Ticks his score down a notch.
Virgil van Dijk (7) – Continues being a monster on aerials. Looked stronger and more in form than most of the previous few outings. Made a STRONG run with ball up the pitch at the end of the second half–would like to see him do more of that. Needs to carry this level of play over in 10 days against Barcelona.
Joel Matip (7) – Deservedly kept his starting spot despite a healthy Joe Gomez. Got beat on a throw in that could’ve been dangerous against better attacking talent. Got up the field more to draw and extra Cardiff man with him and does well in a more attacking role. Overall strong performance and showing good flexibility in playing different styles of center-back for Klopp. Today he was practically a midfielder.
Andy Robertson (6) – Another quiet game with mediocre service.
Naby Keita (6) – Strong on challenges and occasionally driving the ball up the field but mostly anonymous. Subbed for Fabinho in the 71st.
Jordan Henderson (8) – Playing with so much confidence.
Hendo has continued playing higher up pitch. Made great run in the 5th minute and attempted some creative link up. Stifled a counter in the 18th with a great tackle. Fed Salah an absurd long ball in the 36th that almost led to a breakaway shot on goal.
A wild missed strike in the second half but was a solid contributor all game.
Georginio Wijnaldum (7) – Was quiet all game then BAM. His strike of TAA’s corner delivery was technically perfect and gave Liverpool the lead.
Roberto Firmino (7) – Back in the starting line-up after only playing a half at Porto. Missed a golden 1vs1 opportunity in the 23rd minute that he should’ve converted. Still, strong on ball, in challenges, and link up.
Sadio Mane (8) – Perfect through-ball to Bobby in the 23rd minute should’ve put Liverpool up. Quick reaction to a TAA pass almost found the net in the 31st. In the opening minutes of the second half, executed a wonderful strike that just missed the net.
Didn’t get on the score sheet but played well enough to do so.
Mohamed Salah (8) – His work rate in 2019 has really been superb. BRILLIANT spin and shot execution in the 34th almost put Liverpool on top.
Stayed STRONG on ball in the penalty box in the 80th, was dragged down, and earned Liverpool the penalty that Milner buried. Almost converted again at the end off a wonderful run and toe poke. Did enough to earn a goal.
Fabinho (NR) – Came on and quickly went off with a potential head injury. No word yet if it was precautionary or if he’s in concussion protocol.
James Milner (7) – Came on for Fabinho. Utterly buried the Salah earned penalty and did an absolutely awesome old-man-with-a-can goal celebration.
Joe Gomez (NR) – Came on late as he’s being eased back in.
MAN OF THE MATCH: This one is hard as many Reds had strong games but no one clearly separated themselves. Would go with Salah but he’s gotten the last two. So it goes to Gini–solid season, incredible strike to put Liverpool ahead.
A week that began for the New York Red Bulls with rumors that Thierry Henry would soon be pushing Chris Armas out as the team’s coach ended with a fifth consecutive match without a win, as the 2018 Supporters Shield winners fell 1-0 to a New England Revolution side that is no one’s idea of a contender.
Rumors and uncertainty swirl for NYRB
Last week, Sky Sports reported that Herny, the former Arsenal and New York Red Bulls superstar, was in negotiations with Red Bull for a job someplace within the sprawling organization, and that his most likely landing spot was in Armas’ place on the corporate depth chart. While unconfirmed, those rumors hover over NYRB during this unexpected run of poor form.
Still, the Red Bulls players might have been expected to back their coach by putting on a performance that said to management – “ we’ve got this.” Instead, this looked like a team that missed its creative fulcrum, Kaku, who missed this match on a red card suspension stemming from last week’s incident when he fired a shot into the stands, striking a fan.
The Red Bulls will likely have to do without Kaku for an extended period once the league’s disciplinary committee hands down its punishment in the coming week.
As for Armas’ job security, seven games does not a season make but with attendance problems becoming an issue at the scaled down Red Bull Arena, it is worth considering when “it’s still early” becomes it is “it’s too late,” for the Red Bulls. They now find themselves in last place tie on points with Atlanta United and NYCFC in the conference with a record of one win, four losses, and two draws.
A wasted chance for momentum
Saturday night in New England seemed like an ideal time and place for the struggling Red Bulls to steal a road win, particularly against a Revolution side with problems of its own.
Brad Friedel’s side came into Saturday’s match at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, having lost three on the trot, while conceding 12 goals and scoring just five for a dismal -7 goal differential on the season.
Friedel coached New England to an eight place finish last year in his first season behind the Revs bench, finishing nine points off of the final playoff position in the East. The USMNT icon has had troubles of his own in 2019. It remains to be seen if Friedel made the right call in late March when he threw his players, indeed the league’s players, under the bus by saying:
“The mentality of a player in this league, a lot of players, when they lose, it doesn’t hurt enough. There’s not relegation, they don’t get fined, they don’t have fans waiting by their cars, they don’t have people beating them up. They don’t have the pressure they have in other leagues.”
With a long playing career in the English Premier League behind him, Friedel’s remarks hold weight. However, coming from a second year coach with a thin resume, Friedel’s comments can be taken as a cop out from a coach having trouble motivating his players.
With that backdrop, neither side was likely to be overly concerned with anything other than emerging with as many points as possible on what was a dismal night in Foxborough. The home side claimed all three available points on a 73rd minute strike from substitute forward Cristian Penilla.
Sent in on goal by fellow sub Juan Fernando Caicedo, Penilla’s angled shot traveled under the gloves and through the legs of Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles, a rare miscue for the Red Bulls captain.
Despite a five to two advantage in shots on goal, the Red Bulls really only had two legitimate scoring opportunities on the night. The first came on a fine bit of trickery from midfielder Marc Rzatkowski in the 39th minute. Rzatkowski deftly controlled a cross from Vincent Bezecourt, showing off his juggling prowess before powering a left footed shot that Cody Cropper did well to save.
Bradley Wright-Phillips had a chance to end his scoring drought in the 50th minute, but with Cropper off his line and out of the play, BWP’s shot was blocked by Revs defender Michael Mancienne.
New England faces a quick turnaround with a home game on Wednesday against the Montreal Impact, who are coming off of a 3-0 shellacking at Philadelphia. NYRB take on FC Cincinnati at Red Bull Arena next Saturday, the first fixture of a three game home stand that may have a lot to say about the remainder of the Red Bulls season.
It will also be interesting to see how oddsmakers now view the Red Bulls. Cincinnati is coming off an embarrassing 0-3 home loss to Real Salt Lake. With two wins though, Cincinnati sit ahead of NYRB in the table. Will FanDuel Sportsbook NJ install New York as a favorite despite the struggles? Look for the MLS Odds later this week.
I had been right the entire season.
Atlanta United have looked markedly better the last two games under FdB, and they were 100% the superior team in today’s 1-2 loss to FC Dallas as well as last week’s 2-0 win against the New England Revolution.
The underlying numbers back this up.
Ball don’t lie Part II
Part of my continued hammering of de Boer was rooted in the fact that Inter and Crystal Palace were genuinely horrific by any and ever measurable during his abbreviated tenures there.
The Five Stripes followed suit. They were among the worst teams in the MLS the first few games of the season, and all of the numbers backed that up.
The past two games tell a different story.
FdB’s first four games were a shitshow. No intensity. No attack. No offense. No scoring.
As this graphic illustrates, Atlanta’s attack through the end of March was “ineffectual” to say the least.
The one bright spot they had going for them was their non-shooting xG. A month into the season, they saw an uptick in the scoring opportunities their movements around the box should’ve been creating.
But they weren’t scoring. At all.
They did well in possession, but that possession saw the ball moving backwards too often and not into meaningful channels towards the attacking third.
The past two games? It’s been a different story.
Their xG and non-shot xG have outpaced New England and Dallas.
Against New England, they were actually out-possessed but created quality shots from through balls and individual skill (see: Ezequiel Barco). A total of 68% of their shots came from inside the 18 (ATL is blue in the below chart). This meant that all of that non-shot xG was actually being taken advantage of finally.
Today, ATL out-possessed Dallas 71-29%.
They took an outstanding 22 shots on goal with 8 on target (Dallas took 8 total with an unsustainably efficient 6 on target). Part of Atlanta’s “inefficiency” against Dallas was from taking more shots outside of the 18 (they’re red below, at 45%). However, part of the Dallas loss was fluky bad luck. If Barco doesn’t hit the post on his screamer, everyone’s mood and perception of the team is probably different.
Will de Boer stay the course or revert back to his losing ways?
De Boer has clearly shifted strategy since losing to the Crew. Atlanta is attacking more and creating more opportunities.
While they have a -3 goal differential for the season, thanks to their improved play the past two games, their xG for 2019 is now 9.2 compared to an 8.1 xGA. Their expected goal differential is +1.1 compared to a -3 reality. There will be regression to the mean if this keeps up and their record should improve.
The key for Atlanta is that de Boer doesn’t get discouraged by a bad result or two and go back to what’s familiar to him — which has been and is a losing strategy for years.
Atlanta is improving. Now the results need to catch up to the numbers.