They always tell you that it doesn't matter if it's pretty if it worked. Today's 1-0 win over Swansea City certainly worked for Liverpool, but man was it ever not pretty.
Liverpool came out flat and unenergetic, and stayed that way for - well, almost all of the match. The first half was utterly dominated by Swansea, with the Reds benefiting from Swansea struggling with the last pass in the final third and their finishing. Even with those struggles, though, the hosts probably had more clear chances to score than Liverpool even had total shots, because Liverpool had problems just getting forward cohesively.
Swansea's high press knocked Liverpool off-balance repeatedly, forcing awkward passes and sloppy turnovers time after time after time. Liverpool's midfield struggled just to get the ball up to their front three for much of the first half and when they did, they struggled to actually do much of anything productive with it. The whole side just seemed out of sorts and unable to cope with Swansea's energy and drive, and a win seemed like a distant hope.
That's not to say that the match was destined to be a Liverpool loss, however. For all their energetic play, Swansea had their own struggles in the final third. Their finishing touch was badly lacking and while Ki Sung-Yueng was wreaking havoc on the ball, Swansea's attackers were having issues coordinating with him to cut apart Liverpool's defense. The Reds were there for the taking, but their hosts just weren't quite able to unlock them to actually do the taking, with the exception of a pair of moments that forced quality saves from Simon Mignolet.
Finally, though, Liverpool started growing more in to the match, holding possession and driving forward with regularity. They had their own problems with a finishing touch, though, with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho missing a couple shots each and Raheem Sterling mis-hitting a glorious chance. Finally, though, the breakthrough came, albeit in a bizarre and impossible to anticipate way.
A ball came streaking in to the box for Jordan Henderson, and somehow, some way, Jordi Amat's clumsy effort to clear it away deflected off Henderson and in to the net for a goal. Everyone was shocked to see the ball go in, but Liverpool were ahead and Swansea had to find some way to try and come back.
Try they did, but what Swansea did not do was succeed. Their substitutions gave them more pace and energy in attack, but also removed the only three player who were actually generating chances for Swansea. That left their attack a stagnant mess that ran around a lot to little effect, while Liverpool sat back and absorbed pressure while periodically launching counters. They nearly picked up a second goal at the death when Sturridge cracked the post, but that wouldn't have changed the end result: a win for Liverpool.
These three points are perhaps fortunate, considering that by and large Swansea edged the run of play, but that doesn't change their value. They allow Liverpool to keep pace in the race for the top four, just two points out of fourth place and with the holders of that position, Manchester United, coming to Anfield on Sunday. This is a big win for Liverpool, and one they might not have found a way to earn earlier this season. Things are getting better for our beloved Reds, and a Champions League place is beckoning if they can keep up this momentum.