Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge netted twice each as title outsiders Liverpool edged a seven-goal Anfield classic against Swansea.
Sturridge and Henderson supply Liverpool’s scoring punch
LIVERPOOL 4 SWANSEA CITY 3
Liverpool - Sturridge 03’, 36’, Henderson 20’, 74’
Swansea City - Shelvey 23’, Bony 27’, 47’ (pen)
Man of the Match - Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
English football correspondent
Liverpool // Eighteen years ago, Anfield witnessed the game that was deemed the greatest in Premier League history.
Now there are legitimate questions if the seminal, spectacular win over Newcastle even ranks as Liverpool’s most entertaining 4-3 victory.
Sunday’s match provided magnificent drama, wonderful quality and the most compelling of narratives.
Like Newcastle’s 1996 visit, it may yet prove to have a major bearing in the title race. The difference is that this time, Liverpool are very much in it.
After scoring four goals, they are only four points behind Chelsea. They have leapfrogged Manchester City to become the division’s most potent team, with doubles from both Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson eventually seeing off a spirited Swansea City.
If the midfielder’s second goal gave it echoes both of the Newcastle game, which helped cost Kevin Keegan’s cavaliers the league, it was also reminiscent of the 4-4 draw with Arsenal in 2009, an extraordinary game that ultimately damaged Liverpool’s last title bid.
Instead, highlighting their habit of having the last say, they produced a final, decisive surge after Swansea’s Wilfried Bony scored his second equaliser.
The indefatigable Luis Suarez’s drive was blocked by Ashley Williams. The ricochet fell kindly for Henderson and, though goalkeeper Michel Vorm blocked his first shot, the rebound was dispatched into the net.
And thus, Liverpool contrived to encapsulate their season in 90 enthralling minutes. They are superb going forward, fallible at the back, but in the broader reckoning, are making huge strides in the right direction.
An upward trajectory could become still steeper if they are champions.
“They have got the players to do it,” said Swansea’s acting manager, Garry Monk.
Indeed, despite the frantic air to proceedings, this was a match with the stamp of class. The first three goals were all ones to cherish.
The opener was a moment to highlight the eviscerating pace and passing ability Liverpool possess. Raheem Sterling threaded a ball through the Swansea defence which, as it was struck with the outside of his right foot, arced perfectly into the path of the on-running Sturridge.
He accepted it without breaking stride, taking the ball past Michel Vorm and accepting an open goal, scoring in his eighth consecutive league game.
“He just looks like he can score in every game,” Rodgers said.
Two masterpieces from midfielders followed as men who were rivals for a place in the Liverpool side traded beautiful strikes. Both followed a pass from the right, with Sturridge teeing up Henderson for a stunning finish.
Then Jonjo Shelvey, sold to Swansea in the summer, emulated his former colleague with an inch-perfect, first-time strike when Nathan Dyer found him.
If it was hard to fault the Liverpool defence then, their shortcomings were advertised by goals that sandwiched Sturridge’s second, which the unmarked striker headed in from Suarez’s cross.
They amounted to an unfortunate double for Martin Skrtel, with Bony twice the beneficiary.
First the Ivorian applied a glancing header to Jonathan de Guzman’s free kick, but the telling touch came off Skrtel’s shoulder, wrong-footing goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and showing why set-piece concessions have pockmarked Liverpool’s season.
Then, as Nathan Dyer crossed and Daniel Agger headed clear, Skrtel dragged Bony down. Referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot and Swansea’s record buy sent Mignolet the wrong way.
“I didn’t think it was a free-kick and it was never a penalty,” said Rodgers, who nevertheless admitted: “We concede poor goals.”
Thankfully for him, they score an abundance of them, often in style. Henderson, seen as a £16 million (Dh97.7m) misfit when he arrived, helped justify that price tag with the winner.
“He showed great leadership,” Rodgers said.
And this game, in its flawed, fabulous way, had a greatness of its own. The same may be said of Liverpool’s title challenge.
Even if the suspicion is that, sooner or later, such error-riddled defending will end it – “up until now we have got away with it,” said Rodgers – it has been a crazy, compelling ride.
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE