Philippe Coutinho conducts crushing Liverpool win over Swansea
Brazilian scores the first and sets up the second to extend Reds’ unbeaten run
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Swansea at Anfield. Photograph: PA
Liverpool 5 Swansea 0
Huw Jenkins, the Swansea City chairman, slumped lower and lower in his padded seat in the Anfield directors’ box as Liverpool served up a St Stephen’s Day rout. Jürgen Klopp’s team were a league apart from the struggling south Wales club and next season they will be just that unless Leon Britton, or whoever does replace Paul Clement on a full-time basis, can conjure another remarkable escape from relegation.
Liverpool were irrepressible in the second half as Swansea folded in the face of unrelenting pressure conducted by Philippe Coutinho. The Swans have spent the last three Christmases in the relegation zone but their prospects of repeating previous climbs to 12th and 15th in the Premier League appear nonexistent given the lack of quality, fight and character on display at present.
Anfield appeared set for a comfortable home win, and Swansea another punishing away trip, as soon as Coutinho gave Klopp’s team the lead with only six minutes gone. The appearance did not materialise until a second-half onslaught but the quality of the Brazilian’s 12th goal of the season was unmistakable. Several Liverpool chances stemmed from visiting errors and the breakthrough was no exception with Jordan Ayew tumbling too easy under pressure from Roberto Firmino to concede possession cheaply inside the Swansea half. His team paid a swift and heavy price.
Firmino sprayed the ball out wide to Mohamed Salah, who switched the play immediately with a first time pass to Coutinho on the left. Liverpool’s captain for the day had several defenders for company but just the fraction of space a player of his talent requires to make a difference. From 20 yards he curled an exquisite finish around his marker and just inside Lukasz Fabianski’s left post. The Swansea goalkeeper barely moved, such was the power and precision of the finish.
Ayew almost made amends quickly when he met Wayne Routledge’s cross with a downward header saved at the second attempt by Simon Mignolet, retained by Klopp following a weak display in Friday’s 3-3 draw against Arsenal. That was a rare sight of goal for the visitors, however, and with Coutinho orchestrating proceedings at the other end Liverpool were fully equipped to capitalise on the weaknesses of the league’s basement club. Andrew Robertson swept just wide of the target after a Coutinho cutback had eluded three red shirts and rolled into the path of the left-back. Salah was centimetres away from connecting with a delightful ball over the Swansea defence by the playmaker and Emre Can and Firmino were gifted chances by Swansea carelessness but failed to take full advantage.
Liverpool’s superiority was vast and victory was assured the moment Firmino converted the second, although the first half was far from the procession that ultimately transpired. Klopp’s team were short on aggression and urgency before the break, particularly in central midfield where Jordan Henderson was absent with the hamstring injury he sustained at the Emirates Stadium. Swansea saw plenty of the ball as a result but their lack of quality in the final third ensured there was no credible threat to Mignolet’s goal.
With Wilfried Bony injured and Tammy Abraham on the substitutes’ bench, Britton turned to the Scotland Under-21s international Oliver McBurnie to lead his attack. The ungainly centre-forward, who has had spells on loan at Newport County and Bristol Rovers since joining Swansea from Bradford City in 2015, worked tirelessly without support and saw his one effort blocked by the alert Trent Alexander-Arnold. The chasm between the two attacks was monumental, however, and with Liverpool emerging for the second half with renewed purpose the contest was swiftly over.
Coutinho supplied the assist for the second with a free-kick that caused a collective seizure in the Swansea rearguard. Firmino pulled away from Federico Fernández as the ball sailed towards the back post. Ayew stood and watched the danger unfold, not for the only time in the game, and Liverpool’s No9 guided a simple volley home from close range.
Another Coutinho free-kick, cleverly cut square behind a crowded penalty area, almost presented Salah with the third but Liverpool did not have to wait long to extend their lead. The Brazilian was again involved, releasing Robertson on the left after an intricate show of skill, and one full-back assisted the other as the Scot’s cross was headed out to Alexander-Arnold by Alfie Mawson. The header could have been won by Ayew but Alexander-Arnold wanted it more and beat the dawdling midfielder to the loose ball before driving an unstoppable finish in off the underside of Fabianski’s bar.
The fourth arrived within two minutes following an appalling mistake by the dreadful Leroy Fer. Mawson’s attempted to break out of his own half and found Fer, who responded with a pass backwards and straight to Salah. The Egypt international sprinted clear with the invitation and squared for Firmino to tap into an unguarded goal.
The rout was completed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after Ayew, predictably by now, failed to react to the threat inside his own penalty area. Oxlade-Chamberlain beat the winger once to play the ball out to Alexander-Arnold, and for a second time when the defender’s cross rebounded off Martin Olsson. The former Arsenal midfielder controlled the loose ball expertly before lofting a lovely finish over Fabianski and into the far corner of a battered Swansea goal.