If Liverpool end up playing Champions League football next season they may look upon Jordan Henderson’s fortunate winner on Monday night as the key moment in the remarkable recovery they have forged over the second half of the season.
For most of the opening hour Liverpool had been second best to a hungry Swansea side who should have held the lead after creating half a dozen presentable chances. But that profligacy in front of goal proved costly when Henderson inadvertently found the net in the 68th minute, thanks to Jordi Amat’s tackle cannoning of the Liverpool captain and past Lukasz Fabianski.
It was harsh on Swansea but Brendan Rodgers will care not a jot as his side made it 13 games unbeaten and moved within two points of fourth-placed Manchester United ahead of their key meeting with Louis van Gaal’s side at Anfield on Sunday.
Once up a time it would have been Steven Gerrard producing the key moment to get a Liverpool side out of trouble. The veteran talisman was only on the bench here, following recent injury, but he was on the field by the time Henderson struck. The former Sunderland man’s constant cajoling and motivating will not have gone unnoticed by Gerrard, who may well feel he is leaving the captaincy in good hands as he prepares to head off into his LA sunset.
Liverpool enjoyed a couple of bright early moments, and Daniel Sturridge registered the first shot on goal as Swansea riskily backed off and allowed him to fire wide of the right-hand post.
Despite those scares, Swansea looked lively in possession and soon it was the visiting defence doing all the worrying. Joe Allen, facing his former club, made a crucial tackle as Bafetimbi Gomis, selected in Garry Monk’s starting line-up just 12 days after his dramatic collapse at White Hart Lane, bore down on goal. Martin Skrtel then blocked Ki Sung-yueng’s header back across the face of goal as the pressure slowly intensified.
Gomis thought he had found the opener when his powerful header from Wayne Routledge’s cross beat Simon Mignolet, but was headed to safety by Skrtel. The French striker was having his best game in a Swansea shirt and he worked Mignolet again as he drove on to Routledge’s delicate flick and got away a low shot.
Gylfi Sigurdsson curled an effort over the bar as Neil Taylor’s foray forward caused problems for the Liverpool back three, and the Iceland international later produced a more accurate strike that had Mignolet at full stretch.
Swansea 0 Liverpool 1 player ratings
Swansea 0 Liverpool 1 player ratings
1/23 Lukasz Fabianski
Excellent save to prevent Coutinho from taking the lead in the second half. He was alert to everything Liverpool managed to get on target. Unfortunate to be beaten by Henderson's fortuitous rebounded effort. 6
2/23 Kyle Naughton
He didn’t utilise his pace as much as he should have done. It is usually expected that he charges forward but he had to hold back to monitor Coutinho and Moreno. 6
3/23 Jordi Amat
A little suspect at times. He gave the impression he was never 100 per cent comfortable. Uneasy when Liverpool broke through Coutinho. Unfortunate to see his clearance rebound off Henderson and into his own goal. 5
4/23 Ashley Williams
A good performance from the central defender. He stayed tight to Sturridge and rarely let the striker stride beyond him. 6
5/23 Neil Taylor
Penetrated the left wing well and took advantage of the fewer numbers in the Liverpool defence. Poor final ball. 6
6/23 Ki Sung-Yueng
A little hesitant going forward and was too slow to react once he was close to Mignolet’s goal. Passed the ball expertly, though. 7
7/23 Jack Cork
One of the most influential players on the pitch. He passed the ball extremely well but possibly should have backed himself to have a shot. 6
8/23 Jonjo Shelvey
Livened up in the second half. He found himself much more involved in his side’s attacking play while also ensuring that it was difficult for Lallana to get beyond him. 6
9/23 Gylfi Sigurdsson
Forced Mignolet into making a remarkable save to deny him in the first half. Lacked potency in the second half. 6
10/23 Bafetimbi Gomis
A constant nuisance to the Liverpool back three, particularly Skrtel who he tried to bully whenever the defender came close to him. Unfortunately for his side he lacked a quality finish. 6
11/23 Wayne Routledge
He didn’t get up the pitch high enough to cause the likes of Sakho and Skrtel too many problems. Without any space to run into his pace became a little redundant. Replaced by Montero on 72 minutes. 5
12/23 Simon Mignolet
Very quick to react to the threat posed by Gomis. His saves to deny the striker were crucial, particularly in the first half. Denied Sigurdsson excellently too. 7
13/23 Emre Can
A determined performance. No different to how he has played of late and Liverpool are now in a position where they can rely on him. 7
14/23 Martin Skrtel
Cleared away the danger well and stay composed throughout the match. 7
15/23 Mamadou Sakho
One of the better performers in Liverpool’s defence. Showed composure, strength and determination to get the better of Gomis. 7
16/23 Joe Allen
Defensively strong from the midfielder. He was arguably Liverpool’s most effective player. He constantly looked to feed Coutinho while at the same time halted the Swansea advances. 8
17/23 Jordan Henderson
Booked in the first half. He’s been on top form recently but against Swansea he gave the ball away too often. Fortunate with his goal but he’ll be happy to count it. 6
18/23 Adam Lallana
A passenger in this one. So often he is a threat but here he lacked potency and the pairing of Shelvey and Taylor dealt with him well. 6
19/23 Alberto Moreno
Booked early in the second half which meant he didn’t steam into challenges as much as he did before. Replaced by Gerrard on 63 minutes. 5
20/23 Philippe Coutinho
Made much more of an impact in the second as he started to move into space, which allowed him to get a number of shots away. 7
21/23 Raheem Sterling
Fast but a little ineffective after his booking. Still a menace, though. 6
22/23 Daniel Sturridge
He hasn’t been the same since he returned from injury and he showed that here. Missed a good opportunity to extend his side's lead at the end. 6
23/23 Steven Gerrard
Brought on for Moreno on 63 minutes. His experience proved effective and gave Liverpool more strength in midfield. 6
Liverpool were listless, and they were almost punished from the resulting corner as Jonjo Shelvey wandered away from his marker and struck a shot that would have found the net but for Alberto Moreno’s intervention.
The visitors retreated to the sanctuary of the dressing room fortunate to still be level having produced a performance that suggested they were the side with little left to play for over the remainder of the season. Liverpool’s frustrations were perfectly summed up when Moreno picked up a booking for two petty fouls on Kyle Naughton early in the second stanza.
Yet there was finally some spark to their play with at least some suggestion of the quality that has seen them drag themselves into top-four contention. Philippe Coutinho almost gave them the lead after Raheem Sterling’s astute cutback found the forward, but it was little surprise when Rodgers summoned Gerrard from the bench.
So often during his stellar career the club stalwart has rescued them from such situations, then again there have been few times in his career when he has had to sit on the bench even upon his return from injury.
Within five minutes of his introduction Liverpool led, although it had nothing to do with him, instead it was the man who had taken the Anfield armband off him who landed the critical blow.
Sturridge’s flick put Henderson in against Amat, the Spaniard got into make the tackle but the ball struck the midfielder and flew beyond Fabianski into the net.
Adam Lallana almost extended the lead moments later, but his close-range effort was well held by Fabianski.Reuse content