Last week saw Liverpool fans across the globe incur a rollercoaster of emotions. We were in complete control against a team most people are tipping to be the champions in waiting, until the last five minutes when we did the most Liverpool thing ever – nearly throw away three points from a comfortable position. After a game like that, all of those said Reds will have been looking forward to a routine win and nice, comfortable encounter against the leagues bottom side. Yet the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal by Swansea has seen a slight upturn in their fortunes. Maybe it wouldn’t be the turnover many had foreseen after all.
Jurgen Klopp made only slight alterations to his team following the dramatic 4-3 win over Manchester City at Anfield last week. Loris Karius continued in goal looking to nail down that number one spot as the manager detailed was possible. The only change to the side came in defence – Virgil van Dijk returned to the starting XI in place of Dejan Lovren, who was unlucky to miss out given his impressive performance last week. The introduction of the new manager in South Wales has seen a change in formation and inclusion of previously forgotten players. Mike van der Hoorn is now part of a three-man defence alongside Federico Fernandez and Alfie Mawson. Nathan Dyer and Sam Clucas also started this game after only featuring sparingly during the old regime at the Liberty Stadium.
When the game kicked off it started in the same way most Liverpool games do – with the Reds in possession of the ball for long periods. Swansea found themselves hemmed in and unable to get out of their own half, and they nearly paid on a couple of occasions. First Emre Can found Sadio Mane with a ball over the top but Mane was foiled by an alert Lukasz Fabianski. Then Roberto Firmino was first to react to a scuffed clearance. He prodded towards goal from about four yards out but the ref blew up for handball before Martin Olsson could clear off the line. The pressure intensified on Swansea and their lack of an out ball, due to Jordan Ayew’s and Nathan Dyer’s need to help out defending, was hurting them.
Liverpool remained n the ascendency and were starting to create chances. From a corner van Dijk rose above his marker to flick the ball goalwards, but could only steer just wide of the far post. Not long after the Premier Leagues most expensive defender was involved again when he lifted a sumptuous ball over the Swansea backline for Mo Salah to run onto. The Egyptian steadied himself and volleyed it first time over the bar. It was a glorious chance which Salah may not have been aware of how much time he had to take. Liverpool were certainly in control but could not muster an attempt on target. Such is life, it would come back to bite Liverpool on the behind.
In the fortieth minute, Swansea had a corner which Liverpool failed to deal with, giving away another corner. The cross was swung in and van Dijk and Matip both jumped to head it away in the six-yard box. However, they got in each other’s way and van Dijk’s header wouldn’t make it out the six-yard box. The ball to Fernandez who couldn’t control, but Alfie Mawson was on hand to fire into Loris Karius’ bottom corner to give Swansea the lead. The home side had been coming back into the game but it was hardly a deserved lead. Liverpool needed to buck their ideas up and quickly.
Five minutes after Swansea went ahead the referee called time on a poor first half for Liverpool. We had controlled most of the possession but had failed to make it count. We did well with the ball up until the eighteen-yard line and the final ball in was consistently abject. Movement between the lines needed to be better, as did the speed of the play. Swansea will have been happy with their sucker punch considering how little they had done to deserve it. Liverpool need to be better after half-time. Jurgen Klopp was going to have to earn his money if we were to get anything out of this game.
Liverpool went straight on the offence when the second half began. We continued to control the possession of the ball and tried to get in behind Swansea, but with little effect. The speed of the passing had increased but Swansea sat on the edge of their box and frustrated Liverpool. Chances were still created though. Andy Robertson was clean through at one point but was dispossessed at the last minute by Kyle Naughton, while Mo Salah saw a free kick palmed over the bar by Fabianski.
Danny Ings and Adam Lallana were brought on to add extra work rate and movement into the side. Indeed they did so, with both eager to impress now opportunities have opened up in their respective positions. Ings found himself clean through but only managed to roll a tame shot into the welcoming arms of Fabianski, while Lallana was constantly working between the tight lines looking to open up a stubborn opposition defence. But as the clock ticked down it looked ever more likely like Liverpool’s unbeaten seventeen game league run was coming to end. With seconds left Robertson stood a ball up to the back post for Firmino to head back across goal. It looked like it might creep in but it was met with the post. Lallana couldn’t control the rebound and Mawson conceded the corner. With the ball in the air and Karius in the opposition area, the referee blew the whistle on an unlikely victory for Swansea.
Going into this game a win looked like a formality. Swansea have been a Premier League standard team this season and Liverpool were getting better and better. That simply wasn’t the case. For all of Liverpool’s attacking prowess, they were unable to unlock this tight and disciplined opposition defence. It’s hard to take defeat against a side who showed so little regard for offence but this is now a reality Liverpool have to face. In the end, you get only what you deserve. For all of our domination of possession and the sixteen attempts we had on target, and for as much as it sticks in the throat, Liverpool got exactly what they deserved tonight.