Liverpool returned to winning ways in style with a dominant 5-0 victory over an under strength Swansea side on Sunday at Anfield.
After Steven Gerrard had given Liverpool a first-half lead from the penalty spot, the real damage was done at the start of the second period as the home side scored three times in 10 minutes. There was a goal on his full debut for Philippe Coutinho, as well as strikes from Jose Enrique and Luis Suarez. Sturridge got his name on the score sheet with a second penalty late on.
Having lost twice in the past week, the return of Sturridge made a big difference to Brendan Rodgers’ side as did a majestic performance from Suarez. But, in truth, Swansea made it all too easy for Liverpool and questions will rightly be asked about Michael Laudrup’s decision to make eight changes to his starting lineup and leave the likes of Michu and Ashley Williams on the bench.
Clearly the Capital One Cup final with Bradford was firmly in his thoughts, but with a week to prepare for that and having spent much of the past week in Dubai, such rotation to the side could understandably be seen as excessive.
Swansea paid a heavy price for Laudrup’s selection. Liverpool had chances to go ahead early on, with Suarez missing the pick of them as he fired wide of the post after Sturridge had cut across the six yard box.
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But just past the half-hour mark, the breakthrough came. There appeared little immediate threat as Suarez headed toward the byline down the right of the box, but Kemy Agustien recklessly stuck a leg across the Uruguayan and, although his fall was theatric, there could be no real argument about the decision to point to the spot.
Despite having missed a crucial penalty against West Brom last week, Gerrard stepped up confidently and drilled the ball low into the corner.
At the start of the second half, Swansea’s defense went to pieces. Inside the first minute of the restart Suarez played a fine ball that got Coutinho away and the recent signing from Internazionale was allowed to move into the box before striking a shot down the middle that Vorm will be disappointed not to have kept at bay.
Four minutes later it was 3-0, with perhaps the best goal of the contest. There was a wonderful quick exchange of passing down the left, also involving Suarez and Coutinho, that led to Sturridge cleverly helping the ball across the six-yard box and Enrique side-footing the ball first time into the corner of the net.
It was all too easy for Liverpool. Minutes later, Suarez surely couldn’t believe his luck as he received a ball from Downing 35 yards from goal and was allowed to saunter past two defenders in order to find the perfect shooting position before placing a left-footed effort into the net.
The misery for Swansea was complete with 20 minutes remaining when Wayne Routledge, just on as a substitute bizarrely went up for the ball with his arm raised to hand a second penalty of the game to the Reds. This time it was Sturridge who went forward and dispatched it over the dive of Vorm.
Sturridge could have added to Liverpool's tally late on, but the win was marred to some degree by what looked like a dislocated shoulder suffered by Fabio Borini in the closing minutes.