Liverpool hold nerve to edge past Swansea

Anfield challengers still in Premier League title chase despite seven-goal thriller

Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge celebrates his second goal against Swansea at Anfield yesterday. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge celebrates his second goal against Swansea at Anfield yesterday. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 01:00

Talk of the title got to Liverpool against Swansea City. But, nervously, carelessly and belatedly, Brendan Rodgers’ team got the job done.

Swansea’s players cut dejected figures at the final whistle after their stirring recovery ended pointless while the Anfield reaction was one of relief. At this stage of the season, however, it does not matter how victories arrive, as long as they do.

Withstanding the early Liverpool onslaught has become a critical test for most visitors of late. They know it is coming but few pass it, and Garry Monk’s team were behind inside three minutes thanks to a sublime pass through the heart of Swansea’s defence by Raheem Sterling. The flying winger was on hand when Àngel Rangel overran the ball deep inside the Liverpool half. There appeared little on but Sterling further enhanced his prospects of an England recall by sweeping a glorious pass behind Ashley Williams and Daniel Sturridge rounded goalkeeper Michel Vorm to convert. In so doing, Sturridge became only the second player in Premier League history to score in eight successive games. Ruud van Nistelrooy was the other.

Hard-working Suarez
Unlike Arsenal and Everton, Swansea responded

to the setback and were the more composed team for the next 18 minutes. Then Liverpool promptly scored again. The goals may have dried up for Luis Suarez recently but his contribution to the team’s attack has remained constant. An instinctive cross-field pass released Sturridge down the right and the striker cut inside to find Jordan Henderson who stroked a measured finish into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Liverpool looked done and dusted yet again, but the visitors were level with two goals in three minutes when former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey swept the ball in off the bar. Moments later Shelvey was fouled by Martin Skrtel and, from the free-kick Wilfried Bony headed home via a deflection off Liverpool’s Slovakian defender. Bony and Dyer had decent chances for a third before the interval but Liverpool edged ahead again as Suárez and Sturridge performed another rescue act.

Combination play
Jon Flanagan and Sterling combined to release Suárez, who floated a

cross from the left for Sturridge to head his 18th goal in 19 Premier League appearances beyond Vorm.

Any thoughts that Rodgers’ half-time team talk would lessen the anxiety flowing through Liverpool were dispelled after the restart. Skrtel has been grappling opponents without consequence inside his area all season but referee Mike Jones showed no leniency when he hauled Bony to the floor. The Ivory Coast forward then beat Mignolet from the spot.

De Guzmán was just wide with a 20-yard free-kick, Mignolet made a vital save from Dyer after a careless pass from Glen Johnson, while Vorm blocked from Suárez and Williams denied Sturridge as the game swung from end to end. Suárez was denied a penalty claim for the second successive Sunday, but Henderson eased the home side’s nerves with his second of the afternoon. Steven Gerrard found Suárez from deep inside his own half and, though Williams blocked the Uruguayan’s shot, the ball fell for the Liverpool midfielder to beat Vorm at at the second attempt.
– Guardian Service