LIVERPOOL 2: SWANSEA 3: REDS RECEIVE RUDE SHOCK FROM ROCK BOTTOM SWANSEA
No wonder Jurgen Klopp looked stunned. Not only did Liverpool lose their 12-month unbeaten record at Anfield — to a team that started the day bottom of the Premier League — the defeat also probably dealt a fatal blow to their title chances.
In what must go down as the shock result of the season, Liverpool fought back from 2-0 behind — both Swansea goals from Fernando Llorente — to draw level with a couple of cracking finishes from Roberto Firmino. Then came the late sucker-punch.
Anfield was in full voice and attacking substitutes Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge were on the pitch in anticipation of a famous comeback victory when Liverpool’s defensive sloppiness allowed Gylfi Sigurdsson to nick a 74th-minute winner.
Swansea are no longer in the relegation zone and have been given belief they can stay up under new manager Paul Clement.
Liverpool’s aspirations will fall even flatter if they fall 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, who are in action on Sunday.
A stony-faced Klopp said: ‘The defending around all three goals was not good enough. One hundred per cent. It was a big oppportunity for us to get three points, that’s what makes it so frustrating. It can influence our season.
‘It has to feel really bad and it does. At 2-2, it was clear which team was on the run but our mistakes gave them the third goal.’
While Liverpool, championshipless since 1990, cry into the beer, credit should go to Swansea.
They were a laughing stock under Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley, before Paul Clement arrived three weeks ago from his post as Carlo Ancelotti’s No 2 at Bayern Munich.
Clement kept Swansea defensively organised in the first half on Saturday and they then broke out in the second — Llorente scoring twice within seven minutes of the restart.
The Spaniard, linked with a move to Chelsea in the January window, showed good awareness to turn and score from close-range after Wayne Routledge had shielded a header by Federico Fernandez.
Four minutes later, Llorente added a trademark header from a brilliant cross by debutant Martin Olsson, signed from Norwich last week.
Most impressively, Swansea then had enough self-belief to score again after being pegged back to 2-2.
A fine move involving Jack Cork, Llorente and Tom Carroll cut through the home defence and when hapless defender Ragnar Klavan slid in, he played the ball straight to Sigurdsson, who scored. Clement said: ‘This kind of performance can give everybody a big lift and help with confidence which has been down at times.
‘The players have been criticised for not having a response to setbacks but they showed their character after coming back at 2-2. The mindset of this group is that anything is possible. We won’t be looking at the league table or trying to work out how many wins we need.’
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho was back for his first start after damaging ankle ligaments in November and Swansea had shipped four in their last game against Arsenal.
The first half did not go to plan, however. As a chill wind blew across Anfield, neither goalkeeper had a save to make with Emre Can heading off-target and Adam Lallana’s overhead kick flying high, while Carroll’s deflected shot at the other end struck the outside of the post.
Liverpool’s disappointment turned to disaster at the start of the second half. Dejan Lovren needlessly conceded a corner which was lofted to Fernandez and his towering header led to the confusion for Llorente’s goal. After the same player scored a second, Klopp sarcastically complained: ‘I couldn’t see why Llorente could be alone. It is pretty difficult to miss him.’
Liverpool needed a quick reaction and they got it after 55 minutes via another excellent delivery from the left, this time from James Milner. Firmino’s header above Olsson was emphatic and he scored an equaliser of high quality after 69 minutes.
Georginio Wijnaldum lofted a cross to the far post and while Firmino was closely marked by Swansea’s Jack Cork and Olsson, he brilliantly controlled the ball with his chest before burying a half-volley past Lukasz Fabianski into the corner. At 2-2, a home win seemed a formality with Klopp sending attackers Sturridge and Origi on to the pitch.
Perhaps that was a recklessness borne out of desperation to win all three points. Liverpool looked light in midfield as Swansea moved the ball to the edge of the area.
When Klavan slid in to challenge he only succeeded in playing the ball to Sigurdsson, who finished the job off from close range and applied a damaging blow to Liverpool’s title hopes. Of course, Liverpool applied plenty of late pressure to try and square the game up again.
Origi and Lovren were denied by Fabianski saves, Adam Lallana hit the bar and then headed over in the same move.
Even defender Joel Matip was thrown up front in the dying minutes as Liverpool tried everything. But this time, Klopp’s heavy metal football came up short against Clement, whose calm demeanour is very much middle of the road harmony.