Harvey Elliott crowns return from injury to seal Liverpool’s win over Cardiff | FA Cup

An enthusiastic reception greeted the double change, mixed with excitement and relief. It was a new signing and a new start and if the Anfield crowd was happy to see Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott on the pitch, they had more reason to celebrate Jürgen Klopp’s substitutions. The January purchase made an encouraging debut, the teenager made the ideal comeback and on a day that threatened to be awkward for Liverpool he began to assume an almost perfect look.

For Diaz, an assist 11 minutes into his career at Anfield was perhaps even more auspicious given Klopp’s indelible association with pressure. He harassed a sleepy Perry Ng out of possession to help Takumi Minamino score Liverpool’s second goal. For Elliott, his third was a first for the club and while he took it wonderfully (the winger took a touch to control Andy Robertson’s cross and turned to dispatch a half-volley), perhaps his presence on the pitch was an achievement. higher. It had been 147 days since he dislocated his ankle against Leeds, when the immediate reaction was to fear for his future. A quick return had an elegant conclusion.

And yet, even before Diaz’s introduction, Liverpool had evidence of Klopp’s aptitude for thinking ahead. The previous attacker who signed with Porto on his CV had already underlined his catalytic qualities. Diogo Jota cushioned Liverpool’s passage to the round of 16 just as he propelled them into the Carabao Cup final. He has assured that they sailed for a month without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané as they advanced in the qualifiers.

Jota ended Cardiff’s admirable resistance, a 15th goal of the season proving again that he has the spring to be a threat. He jumped past Mark McGuinness, a giant defender who is six inches taller than him, to head in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free kick. Jack’s game is defined by elusiveness and uncontainability in the penalty area; when he hooked a volley wide from a corner, he had managed to get himself open again.

If the first half, in which Liverpool scored a solitary shot on goal, had seemed like an announcement of the incorporation of Díaz, Jota was once again their liveliest attacker. While Klopp has been accused of not taking the FA Cup seriously enough in years past, this time the manager who pushed the youngsters into service in a makeshift squad was Steve Morison. Injuries and January sales were a factor, while two of his recent signings were tied for the cup.

It was a daunting task for teenagers Oliver Denham and Eli King, who made the first starts of their careers at Anfield. Denham was soon able to bear witness to his difficulties, when Jota unnerved him with a deft spin before stinging Dillon Phillips’s palms with a crisp shot. However, from then on they were able to adapt to the game. Liverpool had 82% of the possession in the first half, but without their characteristic intensity and with a waste that was summed up when Alexander-Arnold’s volley went wide. Naby Keïta was responsible for a couple of particularly stray shots, while Curtis Jones dodged a shot from the Minamino cut.

Liverpool debutant Luis Diaz in action.
Liverpool debutant Luis Diaz in action. Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Cardiff could argue that the turning point came in the first minute of the second half. Mark Harris proved to be a slippery figure in attack and, while appealing a penalty when Ibrahima Konaté elbowed him in the back, referee Andy Madley faced a tougher decision when Will Vaulks released the striker with a pass from deep in his own half. Harris broke away behind Konaté and Caoimhin Kelleher took the goalkeeper-sweeper role to the extreme by bringing him down 45 meters from goal. Madley opted for the yellow card, a decision confirmed by the VAR. They were going to come back from a goal, expertly converted by substitute Ruben Colwill, but only after Elliott and Diaz had made their mark.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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