After 20 minutes yesterday, they were 2-0 up and seemingly strolling to a comfortable Sunday lunchtime win over Welsh side Swansea City. Only six minutes later it was all square again as Swansea netted twice in front of a stunned Kop, assisted by yet more dubious defending from the Merseysiders’ shaky backline.
Sturridge restored the Reds’ lead before the break, but Bony converted a controversial penalty two minutes after the restart to level things up again for the Swans. Thankfully, the exceptional Henderson found the net for the second time with fifteen minutes remaining to clinch all three crucial points for the home side, although, after losing the lead twice already, the closing stages proved uncomfortable viewing for Kopites.
The match demonstrated what most supporters already knew. Liverpool have a world-beating attack but a worryingly leaky defence. The former will, in all likelihood, fire in the goals that secure Champions League qualification, but the latter seriously undermines any title challenge Brendan Rodgers’ side might mount.
An engaging and end-to-end first 45 minutes evidenced the Reds’ Jekyll and Hyde nature. Even during the first 20 minutes, when they raced to a two-goal lead, Liverpool still looked vulnerable at the back.
However, only two minutes in, the hosts’ sublime attacking play was on display. Sterling, supremely confident in his own ability, sent a superb through ball behind the Swansea defence for Sturridge, who showed composure to round Vorm and roll the ball into an empty net.
|Sturridge side-foots home the opener after only two minutes|
At the other end, though, they were creative and clinical. For the second goal, Sturridge found Henderson and the former Sunderland man magnificently curled a beautiful effort into the top corner from the edge of the box.
|Henderson leaps for joy after scoring a beauty|
First, ex-Red Jonjo Shelvey was touchingly applauded by all sides of Anfield after refusing to celebrate his wonder strike into the top right hand corner out of respect for his former employers.
|Shelvey showed Liverpool great respect|
|It was a bad day at the office for Martin Skrtel|
His strike partner Suarez almost ended his unusually barren spell in front of goal in spectacular fashion only moments later, but unfortunately his audacious lob from inside the centre circle fell just wide of goal.
The number seven has now failed to find the net in his last five appearances, although his overall contribution to the team remains invaluable, and surely it’s only a matter of time before he’s back on the score sheet.
During the closing stages of the first half Swansea threatened, Bony forcing Mignolet into a save, Rangel glancing a header off target and Dyer drilling wide of goal. Failing to heed those warning signs, Liverpool let their lead slip again two minutes after the interval, although they weren’t helped by some questionable officiating from referee Michael Jones.
Skrtel was admittedly grappling with Bony in the box, but it still seemed unduly harsh to award Swansea a spot kick. Thankfully the number 37 wasn’t shown a second yellow, but frustratingly Bony beat Mignolet from the spot to equalise for the away side.
|Bony bags only his second goal outside of Wales|
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Liverpool made the crucial breakthrough. Gerrard sprayed a long-ball forward to Suarez, whose volley was blocked by Williams. The ball fell to Henderson, who saw his first attempt on goal saved but then intelligently followed in his shot and latched onto the loose ball, tapping home from yards out before celebrating deliriously.
|It's safe to say Henderson was happy to net the winner|
On the final whistle, Liverpool were relieved to have won and kept pace with their fellow title contenders Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City, who all won on the weekend. They were even happier later on in the evening, after Tottenham Hotspur had succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at Norwich’s Carrow Road, leaving the Londoners six points adrift of the fourth placed Reds, who also have a vastly superior goal difference which effectively acts as an extra point.
Champions League qualification is now Liverpool’s to lose, although they must address their defensive deficiencies as a matter of urgency if they are to have any serious chance of competing for the title during the closing stages of the campaign.