Bottom-place Swansea City ended Liverpool’s 18-match unbeaten run with Alfie Mawson scoring the decisive winner at the Liberty Stadium.
Emre Can led the Liverpool side out this evening as he donned the captain’s armband for the first time in his spell with the Merseysiders against bottom-place Swansea City. Riding on a high due to last week’s huge win over league leaders Manchester City, Liverpool came into the fixture as heavy favourites against a Swansea side struggling to get out of the relegation zone.
Very few chances were created in the first half as Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal set his side up well to frustrate the free-scoring Reds. The Swans lined up with a 5-man backline protected by 4-man midfield hovering just in front of the defence. The Portuguese manager’s set up was excellently executed as their condensed and narrow backline made it awkward for Liverpool’s front three to break through as Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have a tendency to drift inside as opposed to opening space out wide.
Additionally, Swansea’s midfield safeguard sat close enough in front of the back five to limit the space in between the lines that Liverpool’s free-flowing attack can play in while also being flexible enough to pressure the ball effectively if the Reds did opt to go wide. The Welsh side reaped the rewards for their hard work when Alfie Mawson sent his half volley beyond Karius, after Van Dijk’s poor clearance gifted him with a goal scoring opening.
One of Liverpool’s only notable chances of the match came just seconds before the half time whistle as the Reds’ fearsome front three finally had their first counter-attack of the game and nearly made it count. Roberto Firmino set Salah free down the left who would eventually deliver the ball to an open Sadio Mane to unsuccessfully scissor-kick wide.
Swansea came into the match sitting on a lowly 17 points knowing with a win they would still be 20th in the table as they are 3 points behind West Brom. The Welsh side, desperate for any points at all, set up deeper in the second half – narrowing the gap between the midfield and defence with their lone striker Jordan Ayew looking less ambitious and more satisfied with sitting in his own half to hold up play.
Despite basically being given the freedom to attack the entire half without any risk of conceding, Liverpool failed to threaten nearly as much as they should have. Old problems continued to rise from the dead in this game for the Reds as they struggled to come up with any significant chances against a low-block side. Relegated to hopeless long shots and long balls, the Reds looked shot out of ideas and creativity.
Just as the referee was getting ready to check his watch for the final whistle, the Reds found one last attack in them. An adventuring Van Dijk found himself on the wing and delivered a perfect ball into Firmino whose header was miraculously denied by the post. Lallana nearly snatched a point for the Reds off the rebound, but the hero of the day Alfie Mawson did wonderfully well to clean up the trouble with a clearance.
A huge 3 points for Swansea sees them move level on points with 19th-placed West Brom. Carlos Carvalhal has had a wonderful start to his career with the Welsh side and a win plus a clean sheet against the “Goliath” that is Liverpool according to the Swans manager himself can only propel the side to continue to move closer to achieving their quest to stay in England’s top flight.
Disappointment for Liverpool in a classic chain of events for the Reds: outstanding result against a big team and fail to impress against a smaller side just a week later. Jurgen Klopp’s men proved that old habits die hard as they conceded yet another poorly-handled set piece while also failing to break down a deep, defensive team. A lack of creativity, impatience, and forcing the issue were Liverpool’s biggest hinderances today. Emre Can especially was the biggest culprit as he was often found wasting possession with aimlesss over-the-top passes and ridiculous long shots.
Possession: Swansea City: 28% Liverpool: 72%
Shots: Swansea City: 3 Liverpool: 21
Shots on target: Swansea City: 2 Liverpool: 4
Corners: Swansea City: 3 Liverpool: 9
Fouls: Swansea City: 5 Liverpool: 9