Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren struck in the dying minutes to give Liverpool a dramatic come-from-behind win over Swansea City to claim their place in the Capital One Cup quarterfinals. Trailing to Marvin Emnes’ strike midway through the second half, Balotelli came off the bench to get his first goal in nine matches and bring his new side level. Continuing the seismic momentum shift at Anfield, Swansea defender Federico Fernandez was given a highly controversial straight red card deep into injury before Liverpool took almost immediate advantage, with Lovren heading home in the 95th minute to avoid the need for extra time.
That Liverpool progressed without having to add further minutes to their hectic schedule will be particularly pleasing to manager Brendan Rodgers, especially after his side had to survive a record-breaking penalty shootout against Middlesbrough in the previous round of the League Cup. And he will be delighted, too, that two of his much-criticized summer signings made hugely positive contributions to decide the tie in Liverpool’s favor. No one, of course. Has faced more scrutiny than Balotelli for Liverpool’s poor start to the campaign. But the Italian made a real difference after coming on and crucially got only his second goal since arriving from Milan. Swansea, though, which appeared headed for a second League Cup win at Anfield in three seasons, will lament the decision to send off Fernandez for a tackle that appeared to carry little or no reckless force.
Former Swansea boss Rodgers made nine changes to the team that limped to a goalless draw against Hull City on Saturday, with only captain-for-the night Jordan Henderson and Javier Manquillo remaining in the lineup. There was early promise from the hosts, with Philippe Coutinho lively, but the end product, especially from the Brazilian, was lacking. Making just his second start of the season, Fabio Borini looked the player most likely to provide a breakthrough, with the Italian twice going close with well-struck efforts from outside the box.
Swansea had been largely content to sit behind the ball and counter. But after a slow start, Garry Monk’s men began to threaten a Liverpool defense that has been suspect in the extreme this season. Bafetimbi Gomis should have done better with a free header in the middle of the area just past the hour mark, but soon after his strike partner took full advantage of an opening. There was fortune and inept defending in the buildup as two deflections eventually saw the ball loop up toward Emnes on the left of the area. The Dutch forward still had much to do, but finished emphatically with a sweetly struck volley across goal, beating Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones.
Glen Johnson and Rickie Lambert went close to getting the hosts back on level terms, but, in truth, there was little entering the final 10 minutes to suggest Liverpool would avoid crashing out. Instead, seven minutes after coming off the bench, Balotelli showed a clinical touch in front of goal to adroitly volley home a superb cross from Borini. Once Fernandez had been shown his marching orders, Liverpool sensed the opportunity to avoid an unwanted extra 30 minutes. And Lovren, who has struggled to provide the defensive steel he was bought to provide this summer, capitalized on Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel coming rushing out and failing to get to a free-kick with a simple header into an unguarded net.