Swansea 1 Fer 8’
Liverpool 2 Firmino 54’, Milner 84’ (pen)
If you came away from this game feeling less than chuffed, it’s okay— it’s not just you.
There’s every reason to feel good about this match. Coming from behind to win, something Liverpool haven’t always been able to do in recent seasons. Securing a fourth consecutive win. Briefly, before the 3pm games kicked off, finding themselves in 2nd.
Yet even in victory, Swansea Away leaves a vaguely unpleasant after taste. It may have been the surprisingly poor overall play in the first half, easily the worst 45 minutes the Reds have played this season. (And yes, I’m including Burnley in that.) It may have been Loris Karius’ surprisingly shaky performance, including two flubs in the second half that should’ve given Swansea at least an equalizer, if not a winner. It may have been our continued inability to defend corners. It may have been losing Adam Lallana to a non-contact injury around the 20th minute.
Whatever the particular detail is that sticks out, one could be forgiven for coming away from this game feeling like we all got away with something.
It was pretty clear early on that Liverpool weren’t going to have their best day. A lack of attacking zeal and a resignation for playing in their own half set the scene for disaster. The worst was confirmed in the 8th minute when Leroy Fer crashed the gate from a corner kick. Afterward, Swansea were rampant, showing a renewed sense of confidence that translated into an energetic pressing game. Borja González had a couple chances to add to Swansea’s lead, with Liverpool skating by on dumb luck rather than tight defending. The hosts had to content themselves with a one-goal lead at halftime, far less than what they deserved.
But as some on Twitter noted might happen, Swansea couldn’t keep it up all day. The Reds came out for the second half with renewed vigor. Their own high press clicked back into gear and the forward line started threatening. They didn’t have to wait long for their reward; less than 10 minutes into Act II, Roberto Firmino nodded home on the second ball from a blocked free kick.
The equalizer put more wind in the Reds’ sails and they probed and prodded for killshot. But Liverpool’s momentum started to stall, and for a 10 minute stretch late in the second half they were largely pinned back in their own defensive third. Some failed clearances by defenders, some suboptimal positioning, and one or two questionable decisions from Karius, and fans started to wonder if Swansea were going to regain control soon.
But Liverpool lucked out. With time running out, Firmino was tripped on the edge of the six yard box, and Michael Oliver, who had been somewhat pitiless with Liverpool up to that point, awarded a penalty. James Milner dutifully converted from the spot to give the Reds what would be the gamewinner.
Swansea, to their credit, didn’t give up the ghost. And another error from Karius nearly brought them level in stoppage time. Alas, for them, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. Liverpool hung on to their late lead and got out of South Wales feeling rather like they had robbed a bank.
It’s possible I’m being too hard on this team. After all, the hallmark of a strong side— one who intends to fight for a Top 4 spot, at the very least— is the ability to win even when they’re not playing especially well. And that’s exactly what they did— with the exception of Bobby Firm and maybe Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané, no one availed themselves particularly well, and one or two had pretty bad days. In any event, we can’t win every game in a 5-1 blowout. Days like today, when the squad are off their game and the opposition get some crazy ideas, are going to happen.
So, Liverpool got away with something. This game was a trap, and the Reds disarmed it, barely. We all head into the international break with a nice little win streak and Manchester United looming on the horizon. We can take some warmth in the result, and not look too closely at the fine print. Liverpool fans will have plenty to wring their hands over once the injury reports start rolling in.