Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says it is “not too decisive” that the Reds are top of the table after 10 games as victory over Cardiff City ensured their joint-best start to a Premier League season.
Sadio Mane scored twice while Mohamed Salah and substitute Xherdan Shaqiri also found the net at Anfield.
Unbeaten Liverpool’s eighth top-flight win sent them three points clear of Manchester City, who do not play until Monday when they face fifth-placed Tottenham at Wembley.
Having also drawn two matches, Liverpool have 26 points – matching their tally from the 2008-09 campaign, when they finished second.
“Not too decisive but 26 points is good,” Liverpool boss Klopp told BBC Sport when asked about going top.
The German joked: “In my whole life I wanted to be top for 24 hours.”
Cardiff trailed to Salah’s sweeping finish before Mane turned a couple of Cardiff defenders and finished past Neil Etheridge.
Virgil van Dijk nodded against a post while Adam Lallana was denied by Sean Morrison’s headed clearance off the line as the Reds enjoyed 80% possession.
Cardiff pulled a goal back with their first shot on target 13 minutes from time, Callum Paterson steering past Alisson.
But substitute Shaqiri restored the two-goal cushion with his first goal for the club and Mane clipped past Etheridge to seal the points.
Clinical Reds on top – but for how long?
This was not as straightforward as the result suggests, with Liverpool requiring two late goals to finally see off Cardiff who were 2-1 behind with 10 minutes remaining.
Yet the hosts’ quality shone through and they will travel for a huge test at Arsenal next Saturday as leaders unless Pep Guardiola’s City beat Spurs.
The positives keep on coming for Klopp.
Mane produced two delicious finishes, while Salah supplied two assists as well as providing the early breakthrough.
Cardiff looked like they would be buried as the Reds dominated possession – yet it remained 1-0 until the 66th minute when Mane doubled the lead with a moment of pure quality.
The one big disappointment for Liverpool was Paterson’s goal, which denied them a 10th successive Premier League clean sheet at Anfield.
However, it proved only a blip as Shaqiri and Mane went on to seal the points thanks to two late Salah assists.
Played five, lost five against the top five
With the three teams below them all failing to win, Cardiff remain 17th in the table with five points, one win and seven defeats from their opening 10 games.
It has been a tough start for life back in the top flight for Neil Warnock’s side, who have now faced all the top five in the first 11 weeks of the season.
Next up are back-to-back home games against Leicester and Brighton, which perhaps offer them a chance of moving away from danger.
They struggled to recover from conceding early, a poor clearance allowing Liverpool to take the lead – but they did become the first team since West Ham on 24 February to score a league goal against Klopp’s men at Anfield.
Cardiff completed 120 passes in this match – just nine more than Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum managed during the game – while the visitors could only muster two shots throughout the 90 minutes.
“I think it is a bit harsh, we were punished for making mistakes,” said Bluebirds boss Warnock.
“I said at half time if we could improve we could have given them a good game, especially if we scored the next goal.
“Anfield is an intimidating place. Our fans were fantastic, they know we are up against it. The lads gave everything. It was so quiet when Paterson scored, you had to dream of a comeback.”
It is worth remembering how far Cardiff have come in a short space of time.
Two years ago they ended October 21st in the Championship. They have already proved this season they can win at this level – but they need to learn fast and start picking up points.
Man of the match – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Why an Anfield goal by Mane = a Liverpool win
- Liverpool have won all 19 of the home matches in which Mane has scored for them.
- Paterson’s goal for Cardiff was the first Liverpool have conceded for 918 Premier League minutes at home.
- Paterson’s goal was also one of only two touches the Bluebirds had in Liverpool’s box all game.
- Since the start of last season, Liverpool forward Salah has been involved in 33 goals in 24 Premier League appearances at Anfield (23 goals, 10 assists).
- He has now scored 33 goals in 35 matches at Anfield for the Reds.
- Cardiff have lost 14 of their past 17 away Premier League games, including four of five this season.
Liverpool are out of the Carabao Cup so have a full week to prepare for next Saturday’s intriguing league game at fourth-placed Arsenal (17:30 GMT). Cardiff also have a full week to get ready for Leicester City’s visit next Saturday (15:00).