Liverpool 4 Cardiff City 1: Mane at the double to blow Bluebirds away

Liverpool opened up a three-point lead at the Premier League summit with no other team in the top five in action until later this weekend.

Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier League as Sadio Mane scored twice in a routine 4-1 win over Cardiff City.

Mohamed Salah gave the Reds an early lead, moving on to seven goals for the season following his midweek brace against Red Star Belgrade.

Cardiff showed a touch more ambition after half-time, although Mane finished emphatically in the 65th minute before Callum Paterson became the first visiting player to score at Anfield in the Premier League since February.

Xherdan Shaqiri settled any nerves by crowning a lively cameo with a crisp 84th-minute finish and Mane added further gloss, matching Salah's haul of seven for the season and putting Jurgen Klopp's unbeaten side three points clear of champions Manchester City, who take on Tottenham on Monday.

Cardiff's resistance lasted until the 10th minute, when Salah backheeled to Trent Alexander-Arnold and peeled off on a run into the box. From that point, chaos ensued, with Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba unable to clear the cross before Salah followed up to slam home after Mane's shot was blocked.

Virgil van Dijk's header bounced to safety off the post as Cardiff continued to wobble but their massed defensive ranks managed to reach the interval with no further damage – Morrison clearing off the line from the recalled Adam Lallana in the half's final act.

Cardiff's faint threats of revival were snuffed out when Mane, who appeared to have bundled his way down a blind alley, crashed a venomous left-footed strike past Neil Etheridge from 16 yards.

Just as the match looked to be meandering to a close, Paterson prodded in Junior Hoilett's low right-wing cross at the near post.

Yet the goal stung Liverpool into life, with Salah laying on Shaqiri's goal and releasing Mane to dink a cute finish over Etheridge.

What does it mean? Relentless Reds keep the pressure on their rivals

The Premier League's top five is unlikely to remain so congested as England's winter months begin to bite and Liverpool served further notice of their title ambitions as they were barely required to break sweat. Over to Arsenal and Chelsea on Sunday, before Spurs and City go about taking points off one another.

Salah purrs to end productive week

Mane will deservedly grab the headlines after his excellent brace but Salah continued a recent upturn that should silence any lingering complaints about form this season. The Egypt star wrecked Cardiff's gameplan with his early opportunism, while his cool head in assisting Shaqiri and Mane allowed Liverpool to ease over the line.

Warnock sealing Cardiff's fate

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock has understandably made much of the gulf in class and resources between his own side and Liverpool. Those facts could not excuse a woeful first-half display, where City coughed up a scarcely credible 85.5 per cent possession to Liverpool. The likes of Bournemouth, Burnley, Brighton and Hove Albion and Huddersfield have all thrived on relatively meagre budgets over recent seasons in the Premier League. Surrendering entire halves of football is no way to approach imitating their exploits.

Key Opta facts:

- Cardiff have lost 14 of their last 17 away Premier League games (W1 D2), losing four of their five games on the road this season.
- Since the start of last season, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been involved in 33 goals in 24 Premier League appearances at Anfield (23 goals, 10 assists).
- Cardiff completed 120 passes in this match – just nine more than Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum managed during the game (111).
- Salah has scored 33 goals in 35 matches at Anfield for Liverpool in all competitions.
- Sadio Mane has ended on the winning side in all 19 matches he’s scored for Liverpool at Anfield in all competitions.
- Callum Paterson’s goal for Cardiff was the first Liverpool had conceded at Anfield in the Premier League since February – a run of 918 minutes without conceding.

What's next

An entirely different challenge awaits Liverpool at in-form Arsenal next weekend, while the onus will be on Cardiff to emerge from their own half with greater frequency when they host Leicester City.