Liverpool fought through an early series of wobbles to crush Cardiff City in Wales and stay in the thick of the title race. The Reds have struggled defensively all season, but nobody's questioning their scoring chops, and even when the hosts took the lead twice there was never any doubt that Brendan Rodgers' side had the firepower to get themselves back into the match -- the 5-2 win is further testament to just how dangerous the likes of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge can be.
An action-packed first half finished level, but that wasn't for lack of trying on either teams part. Both were firing on all cylinders going forward but extraordinarily confused at the back, which made for some entertaining viewing. Jordon Match opened the scoring in the ninth minute, firing past Simon Mignolet following a careless turnover from Joe Allen, and Frazier Campbell produced another fine finish for Cardiff's second after picking up the ball in the right channel and turning Daniel Agger inside out.
Between those two strikes, however, Liverpool had drawn level. Their response to going behind was superb, and the hosts were undone by some careful buildup play which eventually resulted in Glen Johnson getting behind Bluebirds left back Declan John. Once free, the England man was able to cross for Suarez, who fired in from close range.
Liverpool's second arrived five minutes before the break and was once again the result of a right-sided cross. Under siege by the visitors, Cardiff were struggling to clear their lines and when they failed to deal with a corner, the Reds were on hand to pounce. Kim Bo-Kyung stood too far off Philippe Coutinho, allowing the Brazilian to whip in a neat delivery for Martin Skrtel, who nicked in ahead of Juan Cana to poke past David Marshall.
The game was finely poised at the interval, but Liverpool had too much quality not to break away in the second half. The visitors claimed their first lead of the match nine minutes after the break, with Skrtel taking full advantage of the fact that both Jordon Mutch and Kevin Theophile-Catherine were off the pitch injured to score from a corner, and Suarez doubled their advantage not long afterwards when Sturridge picked him out with a superb backheel.
The Reds finally killed the game off when Suarez and Sturridge combined once again, the former picking out the latter with a low cross for an easy tap-in to give Liverpool a three-goal lead with 15 minutes left to play. Mutch restored some dignity for Cardiff with an 88th minute header, but the three points were never again under serious threat, and Suarez managed to complete his hattrick with the last kick of the game. The title is still very much on.
Cardiff City starting lineup (4-5-1): David Marshall; Declan John (Mats Daelhi 65'), Juan Cala, Steven Caulker, Kevin Theophile-Catherine; Fabio, Jordon Mutch, Gary Medel, Kim Bo-Kyung (Wilfried Zaha 65'), Craig Bellamy (Kenwyne Jones 70'); Frazier Campbell.
Goals: Mutch 9' 88', Campbell 25'.
Liverpool starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Simon Mignolet; John Flanagan (Aly Cissokho 73'), Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson; Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson; Philippe Coutinho (Raheem Sterling 68'); Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge (Mamadou Sakho 90').
Goals: Suarez 16' 60' 90', Skrtel 41' 54', Sturridge 75'.