Vital Report: Liverpool 4-3 Swansea City
Barclays Premier League
23/02/2014, 1.30pm GMT
Liverpool edge a seven goal thriller against Swansea City on Sunday afternoon to keep pace with the top three...
The Reds were boosted for this fixture by the return after a month out of full-back Glen Johnson while Simon Mignolet and Jordan Henderson also started after being benched for last weekend's FA Cup exit at Arsenal.
Not for the first time this season Brendan Rodgers' side were quick out of the blocks and they took the lead inside three minutes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Daniel Sturridge was the player to supply it; rounding Michel Vorm and tucking home after a great through-ball by Raheem Sterling.
By doing so, the in-form striker became only the second man, after former Manchester United star Ruud van Nistolrooy, to score in eight consecutive Premier League games.
Sterling went close to doubling the lead a couple of minutes later but Vorm did well to turn his effort around the post for a corner.
Like the hosts, Swansea were also threatening with regularity during the opening exchanges but Wilfried Bony fired their best opening over the bar.
Indeed, for a spell around the 15 minute mark, the visitors were taking the game to Liverpool with some neat passing, heavily influenced by ex-Red Jonjo Shelvey.
The prospect of the Swans getting something from the encounter appeared to take a major setback in the 20th minute when Jordan Henderson made it 2-0.
Sturridge turned provider on this occasion by cutting in from the right and teeing-up Henderson, who picked his spot perfectly from the edge of the area.
Rather than demoralise Swansea, the goal heralded a crazy spell in which they reduced the deficit within three minutes through Shelvey.
The quality of his first-time effort, which went in via the underside of the crossbar, plus the player's Anfield links, saw the goal greeted by an appreciative round of applause from the home fans.
Spurred on by the strike, Swansea scored again a few minutes later to bring the scores level.
This time it was more by luck than judgement as Jonathan de Guzman's flighted free-kick deflected in off Martin Skrtel after Bony had won an initial header.
Liverpool had certainly been guilty of some complacency and defensive deficiencies but the Swans were good value for the scoreline.
This exciting, end-to-end encounter swung back in favour of the Merseysiders 10 minutes from the interval when they restored their lead.
Again it was Sturridge who delivered, with a simple back post header, after an intricate passing move culminated in a pinpoint cross from Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan went close himself shortly afterwards with an audacious chip from long-range while, at the other end, Bony tested Mignolet with a low drive.
Nathan Dyer wasted a presentable chance on the stroke of half-time as the game remained frantic and open throughout the entire first half.
Garry Monk's men were dealt a blow during the interval with Shelvey making way for Jose Canas because of injury.
It didn't appear to be too detrimental to them though as the Welsh side were gifted a chance to equalise from the spot within two minutes of the restart.
Skrtel was adjudged to have pulled down Bony as the Ivorian looked to get on the end of a cross following a slip by Sterling.
Swansea's record signing duly picked himself up and converted to put the match back on level terms once more.
With the hour mark approaching, Suarez and de Guzman exchanged a couple of efforts each as both sides continued to pile forward.
In an attempt to wrestle greater control of the match, and to tighten things up, Rodgers introduced Joe Allen and Kolo Toure in quick succession either side of the hour mark.
Soon afterwards a moment of sloppiness by Chico Flores allowed Philippe Coutinho to take possession and setup Sturridge but the England international was denied his hat-trick by a timely block.
The frantic action showed no sign of abating as Mignolet spilled the ball on the edge of his area and Suarez had a penalty claim ignored.
Another goal seemed inevitable and it came in the 74th minute when a deflected Suarez strike was dispatched at the second attempt by Henderson after Vorm had failed to hold on.
A notable sense of relief engulfed Anfield following the goal with everyone aware it could easily have been scored by the away side.
Both teams had further chances before the end, including Steven Gerrard who hit a post, and it was somewhat surprising the score remained 4-3 at the final whistle.
A pulsating and entertaining match but one which highlighted as many deficiencies as it did positives. Swansea are a very good side who can cause anyone problems on their day but the ease and regularity with which they opened us up was worrying. At this rate our defence is going to undermine any notion of a prolonged title challenge. Fortunately defeats for Tottenham Hotspur and Everton have increased our breathing space in the race for 4th to six points - it's effectively seven when taking into account the goal difference (a whopping +32 advantage over Spurs).
There is no denying the entertainment we offer and the win was our 17th in the league this campaign which is more than the whole of last season despite there being 11 games to play. That stat is almost solely down to our potency up front which now stands at 70 goals scored; more than any one else in the top flight including Manchester City.
Daniel Sturridge - Kept up his amazing scoring run with a well-taken brace and proved a constant thorn in Swansea's side with his intelligent movement and link-up play. No ill effects from an off day in the cup last weekend.
Mignolet, Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger (Toure 63'), Johnson, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling (Allen 58'), Suarez, Sturridge (Moses 79').
Unused subs: Jones, Cissokho, Teixeira, Aspas.
Click here to read the manager's reaction
Click here to see comprehensive match stats
Follow me on Twitter @superbag
|Not a Vital Liverpool member? It's 100% free to join & only takes a few moments to sign up. Click here to become a member or alternatively simply sign in using Social Media!|