Liverpool moved back to the top of the Premier League as they maintained their unbeaten run on Monday night, but it was one of their former players who grabbed the headlines.
Jonjo Shelvey will not ever forget his first game against his old club after scoring the first goal of the game and having a part in the three others. He simply could not keep out of the action and, to add to it all, he also picked up a yellow card.
There must have been times during the game when the 21-year-old England international wished the ground had opened and swallowed him up, but he stuck at it to the bitter end and emerged with top marks for character and endurance.
It was always going to be an emotional evening for Shelvey playing against both his former club, Liverpool, and his mentor, Steven Gerrard. But nobody could have scripted his first three minutes of the game – one minute undiluted joy, the next excruciating agony.
The £5m Swansea midfielder could not believe his luck when a poor headed clearance by Jordan Henderson in the third minute reached him 30 yards out. His first touch, an attempted shot, was nothing to write home about, but he then regathered, went forward and eventually shot left-footed past Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal.
It was the first goal they had conceded in 419 Premier League minutes this season. The clock showed one minute, 27 seconds of the game had gone and Shelvey and Swansea were off to a dream start. But not for long.
A mere 99 seconds later Daniel Sturridge popped up to score his fourth goal of the season after a horrendous, blind back pass to nobody from Shelvey. Sturridge, fully fit again after missing England’s games with a thigh injury, became the first Liverpool player to score in the first four Premier League games of a season. It was also his 12th goal in his last 10 club outings.
Things calmed down a bit after that blistering start, although the astute Philippe Coutinho forced goalkeeper Michel Vorm into action with his shot from the edge of the area, and then Swansea record signing Wilfried Bony sent Mignolet diving full length to his left to stop a stinging shot.
Sturridge had a second gilt- edged chance to score when he lost his marker five yards out from goal, but his free header from Victor Moses’ cross was well beaten away by Vorm.
Liverpool, for whom Gerrard was making his 400th appearance as captain in his 635th game for the club, looked the more incisive on the break, but when the ball got to Michu and Bony up front in Michael Laudrup’s new 4-4-2 formation the alarm bells began to ring for the visitors.
But the panic came in the home defence on 36 minutes when Shelvey once again passed to a red shirt rather than a white one. This time the recipient was Moses, who ran from halfway to the arc of the penalty box as Flores backed off him before shooting confidently past Vorm.
Cue another frantic few minutes as first Michu and then Nathan Dyer forced Mignolet into important saves. The latter almost fell into the path of Bony and it took a courageous full-length lunge from Martin Skrtel to deny the home striker an equaliser two minutes after his side had gone behind.
The second half got off to a lively start with two Gerrard free-kicks causing difficulties in the home defence, the latter forcing Vorm to save at the foot of his left hand post.
Laudrup introduced Jonathan de Guzman to improve his midfield at the start of the second half and he certainly added some extra bite. As the exchanges heated up so Shelvey’s night took another turn for the worse with an off-the-ball- spat with Lucas that earned both of them yellow cards.
Ashley Williams, Henderson and Andre Wisdom soon followed into the referee’s book and the temperature was raised once again when Leon Britton chipped through for Shelvey to claim his third assist of the game as he headed into the path of Michu, who hammered home the equaliser in the 63rd minute.
The Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, knew his side would be in for a tough time at the home of his former club, and he also knew that a win or a draw would take his team back to the top of the Premier League
Swansea finished the stronger and a De Guzman free-kick forced Mignolet into another full-length save with three minutes left to play. Rodgers had thrown on Raheem Sterling with 10 minutes left to try to regain some initiative in the Swansea half of the field, but the last 20 minutes were an ever-increasing white tide of aggression.