Liverpool 5: Gerrard (pen.) 34', Coutinho 46', Enrique 50', Suarez 56', Sturridge (pen.) 70'
A puzzling, and in some cases frustrating, eleven was selected by Brendan Rodgers ahead of his third meeting with his former club, with each of Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, and Luis Suarez starting again, and a setup that somewhat resembled the formation at Oldham--plenty of ostensible options in attack, with Suarez joined by Daniel Sturridge, Stewart Downing, and Philippe Coutinho in his full debut, and only Lucas and Gerrard in the midfield.
Against a Swansea second-string, though, it proved to be more than enough, as Liverpool created chances with ease as the match settled. They were dangerous in and around the final third without really testing Michel Vorm, with Suarez winning two quick free kicks that were ultimately wasted by the Uruguayan; he first blasted over after Gerrard's effort was blocked by the wall, and then fired high when trying to curl it in over the wall himself.
The hosts were denied a clear penalty in the 24th minute when Kemy Agustien tripped Daniel Sturridge in the area, and while Philippe Coutinho should have done better with the loose ball, it looked to be another luckless day in front of goal for Liverpoool. That changed ten minutes later, as Agustien bundled Suarez over near the goal line and Steven Gerrard converted the resulting penalty. It had an air of relief more than excitement, as the captain did little to celebrate.
Liverpool couldn't get another before the break, but thankfully the crucial second came less than a minute after the restart. A quick break started by Suarez down the left saw Coutinho free in possession, and the young Brazilian cut in smartly before lashing a low drive off Vorm and in for his first goal in a Liverpool shirt. Some neat interplay and Daniel Sturridge footwork gave Jose Enrique an open look for the third less than five minutes later, and a left-footed curler from Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge penalty rounded off a day that could have seen Liverpool score plenty more than five.
Like many other Liverpool victories this season, it's easy to rush to find the caveats--Swansea had one eye on the League Cup final and fielded a weakened side, and had they started their strongest eleven it could have been a very different affair. With an opposition that wasn't at their best, a win for Liverpool was the only acceptable outcome; dropped points wouldn't have necessarily been surprising, but would have represented a massive failure.
And yet, that would once again ignores how good Liverpool were, even with tired legs for some and early chances gone begging. Swansea could have frustrated and fought beyond the 34th minute, but Liverpool found a breakthrough and got a pivotal second goal, and from their it was a Liverpool win rather than a Swansea failure. No need for jumping to conclusions or making overblown statements about what this one means--it was just a solid, fun win, and one that can be enjoyed for its successes on both an individual and collective basis.
Liverpool's defense was rarely, if ever, tested, and the two-man midfield of Lucas and Steven Gerrard coped more than capably with Leon Britton and Jonathan De Guzman, who were (along with Michel Vorm) among the only Swansea regulars on the pitch. Gerrard's cool conversion of the penalty was just the tonic for growing nerves after Ben Foster's save on Monday and a goalless half-hour today, and while it's still annoying that he's going to play every minute in league, he didn't look any worse off by the time the ninety minutes was up.
Most of the attention is reserved for the front four, who were breathless once they hit their stride. Luis Suarez showed little ill effects from the 180-plus minutes he'd played prior to today, and if anything, he was stronger as the match wore on. He created a number of chances and finished well on his own, and clearly benefitted from the presence of Daniel Sturridge. The young Englishman had only himself and Vorm to blame for not having at least a brace, and his fellow January signing looked lively on the left, with smart, incisive runs throughout the final third and the well-taken strike that gave Liverpool their much-needed second. Solid work again from Stewart Downing on the right, and while he's never going to have the flash of the other three--or win over too many Liverpool supporters--he was plenty effective.
The only negatives on the day turn out to be injuries, as Fabio Borini's apparently done for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder, and reports from the U21 side have young midfielder Marc Pelosi suffering a broken leg from a rough tackle. Pelosi has time, but sentiment toward Borini is mixed at best, and it's a cruel blow for a player who's busted his ass every time he's on the pitch. Hoping both make full recoveries.
It's okay for today to be fun, even if it doesn't rescue Liverpool's season or mean that everything's suddenly better. Working to find negatives or dismissing the result completely is unneeded and joyless, though, and ignores that this whole supporting thing doesn't just mean doom and gloom. Liverpool need to do this consistently and against better sides, of course. That's not really up for debate.
But at least for today, they were very good and got an excellent result in an impressive manner. At least save the misery until tomorrow.