Situated on the broadcasting gantry within Anfield’s main stand, Oliver Miller offers his view on Liverpool’s Premier League match against Swansea.
Liverpool push away Swansea with a Boxing Day bombardment
As referee Kevin Friend blew his whistle for full-time, Jurgen Klopp ran to the away side’s dugout and embraced with Leon Britton. The German towered over the caretaker Swansea manager on the Anfield touchline and on the pitch Liverpool had towered over Swansea. An emphatic victory for the hosts against the league’s bottom side was greeted with a job-well-done type of applause from the crowd; and with games against Leicester, Burnley, Everton, and Manchester City coming up, it was a game Liverpool had to win … and comfortably.
For much of the match the focus was not on the individual dugouts but on the two Brazilians whose performances were exemplary. While Philippe Coutinho continues to do no wrong, his countryman Roberto Firmino must be the most underrated player beyond Anfield. His application enables others to shine. Firmino took his goal tally for the season to 16 as Liverpool exposed and humiliated the insipid and increasingly doomed Swansea. “I appreciate Roberto’s effort and performances always,” said Klopp. “I could not say how many he has scored because he is always involved in dangerous situations.”
Coutinho was also superb – scoring the first and creating a couple more, he had Swansea defenders begging for mercy as full-time approached. His movement in and around the Swansea penalty area was neatly described as ‘balletic’ by Pat Nevin on BBC Radio 5live. Both Brazilians found top gear in scintillating bursts and combined exquisitely – appearing like they could score at will in the second-half.
Leon Britton hoped to repeat the feat of Paul Clement by making Anfield the starting point of a revival, however conceding within the first six minutes was certainly not in the script of the temporary manager. Jordan Ayew lost balance in midfield; Firmino stole possession in what is a trademark counter-press, fed Salah who served Coutinho on the edge of the penalty area. Coutinho duly dispatched his 11th goal of the season.
The 20 minutes of Swansea possession before half-time did little to increase the verve of the expectant Boxing Day atmosphere. Yet despite the couple of Swansea chances and the admirable performance of debutant Oliver McBurnie in an isolated role – which even received applause from sections of the Anfield crowd when he was substituted – their physical and psychological collapse in the second-half was alarming. Bottom of the Premier League is no false position.
Liverpool’s lead should have been extended before the interval with Firmino twice striking wide – an injury-time effort being particularly wasteful. But the Brazilian made amends shortly after the break with a volley past Fabianski after another perfect Coutinho delivery on 52 minutes, and the visitor’s efforts at damage limitation were doomed.
The third on 65 minutes followed more Coutinho magic on the left-wing, juggling the ball before crossing where Trent Alexander-Arnold benefited from Swansea’s hesitation, picking out the top corner from just inside the penalty area and with the help of the underside of the crossbar. A ferocious strike that not only did the easy bit of getting Jamie Carragher out of his seat on the gantry but also brought his commentary partner Bill Leslie to his feet.
Firmino tapped in the fourth a minute later after Salah’s unselfish pass and it was all too easy as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain lobbed in the fifth eight minutes from time. Britton post-match admitted that, “all belief and confidence just drained from the players.” It was a Swansea performance that lacked substance and Liverpool made them pay with clinical attacking play.
There were a number of star performers; Alexander-Arnold – whose goal was his first at Anfield, and extra special given that some of his family members were present from America – showed his usual energy and athleticism. Salah – although not on the scoresheet – created and tormented. Whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain, who capped off the scoring, made intelligent runs. “It’s important for me,” he said. “There was good quality all around, we defended well.”