Liverpool produced their best performance in months to tear Swansea City apart in the second half en route to an emphatic 4-1 win at Anfield on Monday. In front courtesy of Alberto Moreno’s first-half opener, Liverpool came thrillingly to life after the break, helped by goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski clearing against Adam Lallana to double their lead. While Gylfi Sigurdsson quickly pulled one back, another for Lallana and an own goal by former Red Jonjo Shelvey ensured Anfield closed out 2014 with much to celebrate.
It has so far been a season desperately short on joy for Liverpool. Sitting in 10th position ahead of this clash, only against Tottenham at the end of August -- the last time that Daniel Sturridge featured in a red shirt -- have Liverpool recreated their rousing play of last season. Still without Sturridge, and on this occasion without captain Steven Gerrard, Liverpool built on the improved signs of recent weeks to expose the shortcomings of Brendan Rodgers’s former club with a combination of pace and no little guile. Lallana, the most expensive of Liverpool’s thus far disappointing collection of summer signings, was at the heart of it with a performance that earned celebratory chants and a strong ovation from the fans who have so far only seen glimpses of his Southampton form.
Of course, it would be foolhardy to read too much into this one performance. Swansea, who sat above Liverpool at the start of play, defended shambolically at times. The home side, too, showed their continued defensive vulnerabilities. Having immediately conceding after going 2-0 in front, they so nearly conceded an equalizer straight from the kick off that might have changed the whole complexion of the fixture. Yet now, somewhat remarkably, just five points off a place in the top four, Liverpool go into 2015 with renewed positivity.
Liverpool again operated with the 3-4-3 formation that has seen them rediscover some of their attacking verve in the past month, helped by the movement of Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson in particular. All three impressed on Monday and were involved in the opening goal 33 minutes in. Moreno started and finished the quick-paced attack, while in between there was a clever run by Coutinho, a perfectly weighted pass form Lallana and fine cross by Henderson to allow Moreno to fire in off Fabianski. A good deal of fortune enabled Liverpool to make it 2-0 six minutes into the second half. Closed down eagerly by Lallana, Fabianski, despite having plenty of time, directed his clearance straight into the back of Lallana and into the back of the net.
Liverpool’s good work threatened to be undone when poor defensive headers from Emre Can and then Mamadou Sakho enabled Sigurdsson to volley past Simon Mignolet from inside the six-yard box just a minute later. And a capitulation looked possible when Wilfried Bony forced Mignolet into a smart, low stop.
But, poor defending and all, it was a spell of play that harked back to Liverpool’s displays of last season that so thrilled the neutrals. One attack encapsulated that feeling as Liverpool streamed forward and only the width of the post prevented Raheem Sterling from finishing off what would have been a memorable Anfield goal. It did not take long for a fine goal in its own right to arrive. From Coutinho’s delightful flick, Lallana dropped his shoulder to drift pass the leaden-footed Federico Fernandez and Angel Rangel before finishing with a precise left-footed shot back across the goalkeeper.
Things could have been even worse for the visitors, with Shelvey lucky to escape a red card for a swinging forearm into the face of Can earlier in the contest. As it turned out, Liverpool may have been glad that their former midfielder remained on the pitch. Shelvey has enjoyed and endured remarkably eventful contests with his former club since leaving Anfield 18 months ago, scoring in both league fixtures last season as well as netting an own goal. He again left his mark on this match, this time by heading into his own net from a near-post corner.
The result was sealed, although some of the sheen could have been taken off the win for Liverpool had Bafetimbi Gomis’s effort found the net rather than the crossbar and had Sterling been shown a red card for putting is hand to the face of Fernandez.