independent

Monday 21 April 2014

No happy return for Rodgers as Liverpool draw blank

Swansea 0
Liverpool 0

A slice of misfortune and a series of wasted opportunities left Brendan Rodgers to lament another opportunity missed.

A good point for Swansea, but with more than a third of the season gone, Liverpool remain outside the top 10.

The finger will once again point at the side's inability to turn their approach work into goals. And so it should. Liverpool's return for 21 shots, 14 of which were on target, was a Jose Enrique effort which was ruled out for offside just before half-time and a Raheem Sterling volley which hit the crossbar.

There was also a two-on-one situation in the final quarter when Luis Suarez and Sterling failed to seize the moment against defender Ben Davies. Little wonder that after 13 games, they have scored just 17 goals. Only West Ham of the sides above them have scored fewer.

Rodgers, returning to the Liberty Stadium for the first time since leaving Swansea for Anfield in the summer, said: "It was a very good game, we played really, really well and created chances. I thought we were unfortunate with the offside goal we had ruled out. That was a goal, I have seen it on the replay.

"I thought Suarez was bright and a threat, but we had several shots on target and failed to score. We need to finish them. The difference is that little bit of quality and that's something we will look to improve on.

"It was a great opportunity to be two against one on a young defender. It was one where, as a coach, you look at it and think if Luis had gone three or four more yards he would have committed him and Raheem would have been in on goal.

"It looked like he played the pass too early and Raheem then gave him a ball that knocked him wide on the return. We would have hoped to be more clinical on that but that is experience, he is only 17.

Chipping

"However, we are now eight games unbeaten and we are chipping away and our method was good today."

Apart from the poor finishing, the game had just about everything else. Both teams played with purpose and panache with Leon Britton and Steven Gerrard imperious for their respective sides.

Gerrard, whose performance was bettered only by that of England full-back Glen Johnson, was all but untouchable in the first half when the deadlock really should have been broken.

Sterling rattled the woodwork in the 32nd minute and Swansea's German goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel denied the marauding Johnson, who popped up inside the penalty area after a wonderful move involving Gerrard, former Swansea favourite Joe Allen and the excellent Enrique. For Swansea, Pablo Hernandez, who improves with every game, was twice denied by Pepe Reina and the Spaniard also kept out his compatriot Michu's second-half header as the home side threatened to repeat their victory on the final day of last season, which was Rodgers' last game in charge at the Liberty Stadium.

His replacement, Michael Laudrup, whose side beat Liverpool 3-1 in the League Cup a month ago, was delighted with his side's 17th point of the season and a first clean sheet since August 25 against West Ham.

"It was a good point," said Laudrup. "In the first half they had more chances than us, but we had chances too and I'm pleased with the performance.

"You know that when you play against Suarez and Gerrard, they are capable of inventing something, but I thought we handled it well."

The build-up to the game had been dominated by Rodgers' homecoming and the suggestion Swansea captain Ashley Williams would refuse to shake the hand of Suarez, who he criticised as arrogant and a diver in a recent book.

The game, however, was largely free of rancour as the two sides produced an exhibition of football that left a crowd of just over 20,000 on the edge of their seats. All that was missing was a goal.

Laudrup said; "There has been a lot of talk about Suarez and Ashley and today we saw two guys trying to do their best."

The fact that Suarez left empty-handed was largely down to Tremmel as much as the Uruguayan's profligacy. But, if both sides continue playing bright football like this, living outside of the top 10 might be a temporary rather than permanent situation. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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