Liverpool 4 Swansea City 3 match report: Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson each score twice in thrilling victory for the Reds

Dramatic win at Anfield keeps Brendan Rodgers' side in title contention

Anfield

It’s some throwback we’re getting from Liverpool – not just to the days of Thatcher’s Britain, when Anfield last aspired to win the title, but to the days of football in the park, when next goal wins.

Exhilarating as the football might be from Brendan Rodgers’ troubadours – who have scored more goals here already this season than in any of the past three and have now overtaken Manchester City’s overall tally – their defensive brittleness is the trait which casts a shadow over their quest to return to Europe’s top table.

The seventh goal of another breathless afternoon finally proved enough to take the home side within four points of Chelsea but there was suffering and celebration in equal measure for those who came to watch. The other sides who covet fourth place will have taken heart from what they saw in the performances of Martin Skrtel, the returning Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger. The manager’s admission that he had substituted Agger for no other reason than his lack of physicality was a damning indictment. It comes to something when you turn to Kolo Touré as a reinforcement.

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But this is the way it is going to be for Liverpool between now and May. The most revealing aspect of Rodgers’ post-match dissection of yesterday’s game was his declaration that greater defensive security is something he can’t coach in his players. If they can’t intuit it, they’ll never have it.

 

There might need to be more composure in the three months ahead, the manager admits, but it is the incredible offensive component – one which has made Anfield the most consistently fine place to watch football this season – which will take them back to the European big time. 

To the very end, Liverpool’s lead lacked any type of security. A vignette eight minutes from time told it all: Touré allowed the ball to be played inside him and Johnson slammed a clearance straight into Skrtel, two feet to his right. Yet in Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson there was evidence of that transformative effective Rodgers has on those players who are willing to play the game his way.

Both fizzed with menace as the home team began with a now trademark Anfield intensity which suggested another avalanche. Jonathan de Guzman was left sprawled across the turf as Sterling dispossessed him, advanced and clipped an imperious pass with his right outstep behind Chico Flores which Daniel Sturridge ran on to, eased past Michel Vorm and steered into the net. Sturridge really does love rounding a goalkeeper.

Sterling’s breezy self-confidence – immediately bending a right-foot shot which Vorm dived to claw away – gave him the air of a player who could win this match single-handed. And then Henderson stepped up, doubling Liverpool’s lead on 20 minutes, arcing a first-time shot onto the ball which Sturridge had rolled into his path from the side of the penalty area.

But even in those early stages there was a premonition of what was to follow. Sterling’s confidence saw him attempt a cushioned volley pass from the edge of his own area – straight to Angel Rangel. That kind of swagger was unwise against a side in whom Garry Monk has restored the crisp, pacy, technical component which had drifted away in the last weeks of Michael Laudrup’s tenure.

In a very gratifying match for those extol the innate virtues of the English footballer, Leon Britton, Jonjo Shelvey and Nathan Dyer – Englishmen all – were excellent for Monk.

It was Dyer who advanced in from Swansea’s right to supply a short pass which Shelvey’s right foot sent fizzing into the top right-hand corner of Simon Mignolet’s net – a mirror image of Henderson’s strike – and within four minutes Wilfried Bony had levered a header onto De Guzman’s free-kick which Skrtel diverted haplessly into his own net.

Though Sturridge’s header re-established his team’s lead – Flores and Ashley Williams allowing him a criminal quantity of space when Luis Suarez’s cross from the left split the pair of them – the first half concluded with Dyer dispossessing Philippe Coutinho and Henderson sending an aimless, dangerous ball across his own area.

The interval made no ostensible difference. Swansea levelled again within two minutes of the restart – though Skrtel was unfortunate to have been adjudged to have fouled Bony as the two tussled for the ball in the area. The Ivorian dispatched the penalty.

It said everything about Swansea's threat that Joe Allen was needed from the bench, in Sterling’s place, as a reinforcement, against a side who had managed half of Liverpool’s season’s tally before yesterday. It worked – and Allen also almost set Liverpool back on their course, dispossessing Flores five yards in front of Swansea’s area before feeding Sturridge, whose shot had left his boot when Williams launched himself into a monumental block.

There was a naivety about the way Swansea kept advancing, creating a vast pocket of space between midfield and defence which Liverpool could eventually seize to score the decisive goal.

One of Steven Gerrard’s several zeroed 20-yard passes found Suarez, whose shot Williams could only block to the feet of Henderson. Vorm repelled the midfielder’s strike but the rebound fell back at the same player’s feet to score.

Gerrard also hit the post in the last minute. His side are another step towards their holy grail but hold on tight – because this journey will be high octane to the last.

Liverpool (4-1-4-1) Mignolet 6; Flanagan 6 Agger 4 (Toure 5 63), Skrtel 4, Johnson 4; Gerrard 6; Sturridge 8 (Moses 79 6), Coutinho 6, Henderson 7, Sterling 8 (Allen 58). Suarez 6. Substitutes: Jones, Toure, Aspas, Moses, Cissokho, Teixeira

Swansea (4-2-3-1) Vorm 7; Rangel 7, Flores 5, Williams 6, Taylor 6; de Guzman 6 (Hernandez, 73 6) Britton 8; Dyer 7 (Ngog, 78 6), Shelvey 7 (Canas, 45), Routledge 6; Bony 6. Substitutes: Tremmel, Tiendall, Amat, Ngog, Emnes.

Referee: M. Jones (Cheshire)

Booked: Liverpool Skrtel

Attendance: 44,731

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