Swansea dominated a first half in which Liverpool performed poorly and had their keeper Simon Mignolet to thank for keeping the scores all square at the interval. In the second half, the Reds’ display noticeably went up a gear or two. They also benefitted from a slice of good luck, as Henderson scored a fluky winner when a Swansea tackle rebounded off his shins before looping over Fabianski and into the net.
It was the type of good fortune that teams tend to be on the receiving end of when they are performing well, and Liverpool took full advantage, holding on in the closing stages to capitalise on Spurs and Southampton dropping points earlier in the weekend.
After enjoying an unusually extended rest period, it was reasonable to expect the visitors to come flying out of the blocks, particularly considering their run of recent good form and their decent record against the Welsh side- the last time Liverpool lost to Swansea Brendan Rodgers was managing them in 2011.
However, instead the Reds never really got going during a frustrating first half that the hosts dominated. Sturridge’s shot dribbled wide and Coutinho curled one into the arms of Fabianski, but Swansea were on top and went closest to opening the scoring before the break.
Bafetimbi Gomis posed Garry Monk’s side’s most potent attacking threat, exchanging passes with Wayne Routledge before testing Mignolet with a low drilled strike from 20 yards on the half hour mark.
The Belgian keeper had to be on top form to then turn Gylfi Sigurdsson’s curled effort wide, before former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who didn’t self-destruct against his former employers for a change, saw his shot crucially deflected wide off Lallana from the resulting right wing corner.
|Mignolet saved well from Sigurdsson's strike|
They certainly performed at a far higher level, pressing their hosts higher up the pitch and creating goalscoring opportunities. The usual suspects were involved, Sterling setting up Coutinho, whose low shot was saved at the near post by Fabianski on 57 minutes.
Joe Allen, perhaps not particularly renowned for his attacking ability, was also involved going forward, prodding Lallana’s cross goalwards from close range but seeing Fabianski hold well. It might not have been capped by a goal, but all-in-all this was another impressive performance from the Welsh midfielder. Despite providing a calming and re-assuring presence when he came on last night, skipper Steven Gerrard still has a job on his hands displacing Allen from his well-deserved place in the starting line-up.
Only minutes after handing the captain’s armband back to its rightful owner, Jordan Henderson, who had otherwise been performing pretty disappointingly, benefitted from a huge slice of good luck to score what turned out to be the winner.
Racing on to a flick on from Sturridge, Henderson saw Jordi Amat reach the ball first and hack a clearance against his shins. The ball then looped over Fabianski and landed in the net, much to the delight of the travelling Kop.
|Henderson scored the winner|
Swansea, noticeably deflated after falling behind in such unlucky circumstances and kicking themselves for failing to score when they were in the ascendancy, failed to mount a serious assault on the Liverpool goal during the closing stages. Yes, only having a slender lead made things nervy for Liverpool, but it wasn’t like Mignolet was being bombarded with efforts on goal from the hosts.
In fact, if anything, the Merseysiders may well have added to their lead as the clock ran down, Coutinho curling another one of his classic strikes just over the top right hand corner and Sterling lifting a volleyed effort over the bar under pressure from Fabianski after receiving a good pass from Sturridge.
The England striker also went close to doubling Liverpool’s margin of victory himself when Sterling returned the favour by setting him up in the final minute of injury time. Unfortunately, his right footed strike rebounded off the post, denying him the opportunity to bag a much-needed confidence boosting goal.
Although far from a classic, this win represents another important step towards Champions League qualification for Liverpool, who have taken 32 points from the last 36 available and kept six consecutive clean sheets on the road, a feat last achieved in the glory days of Bill Shankly.
It’s frustrating that title winning form is required to only achieve Champions League qualification, but it’s also delightful to see the Reds performing as they did last season and recovering so spectacularly to be firmly in the fight for fourth.
Bring on United on Sunday!