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Henderson to rescue for leaky Reds


Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates his goal against Swansea

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates his goal against Swansea

REUTERS/Darren Staples

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge leaps over Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm and scores his teams opening goal

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge leaps over Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm and scores his teams opening goal

Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge scores past Swansea's Michel Vorm

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge scores past Swansea's Michel Vorm

REUTERS/Darren Staples

Liverpool's Joe Allen and Swansea City's Angel Rangel battle for the ball

Liverpool's Joe Allen and Swansea City's Angel Rangel battle for the ball

Peter Byrne/PA Wire


Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates his goal against Swansea

They shouldn't have bothered signalling kick-off at Anfield with a referee's whistle. A starting pistol would have been more appropriate for this game.

Liverpool are attempting to win a marathon by engaging in a 38-game sprint.

It is glorious to watch, particularly on their own ground, but after needing a photo finish to get the better of a Swansea side reasserting its identity under Garry Monk, even Brendan Rodgers admitted it is not always so desirable to try to spend every second in fifth gear.

For all Liverpool's attacking verve – they led 2-0 after 21 minutes just as they have done so often in recent home fixtures – this was an occasion where the ability to pause for breath and take a more measured view of proceedings would have avoided later discomfort.

After conceding their two-goal advantage, and a 3-2 lead early in the second half, Liverpool needed a second for the outstanding Jordan Henderson on 74 minutes to retain their title aspirations. While Liverpool evidently possess the firepower to end their title drought, the lingering defensive flaws may undermine their efforts and the pursuit of attacking perfection can leave them exposed.


"It's not a tactical fault," said Rodgers, insisting individual errors are proving most costly.

That may be so, but the sight of Steven Gerrard single-handedly protecting his defence while Henderson – even when Liverpool were ahead – joined the attack searching for more goals is hardly pragmatic. The ambition is admirable and, for the most part, the execution of it is working.

Swansea, not only echoing Rodgers' passing sermon but at times delivering it with more gusto, could consider themselves unfortunate to suffer a slender defeat in a seven-goal banquet that was both mesmerising but also utterly ridiculous.

There was caviar up front, cabbage at the back.

Reviewing the video evidence, Rodgers and Monk will thrill at the entertainment served going forward but hunt the nearest sofa to take cover when they survey the horrors when they conceded.

When Daniel Sturridge struck after three minutes it seemed the Anfield trend of banking the points by half-time would continue.

Raheem Sterling delivered a pass with the outside of his right foot last seen when Gerrard sent Sturridge clear at Fulham. The England striker has 18 in 19 Premier League games this season, but he'll be the first to admit, with this kind of service, he's rather like Charlie given complete access to the chocolate factory.

Henderson's exquisite second on 21 minutes, curled past the static Michel Vorm from 18 yards, began to summon memories of the swift destruction of Arsenal a fortnight ago.

The extremities in the Liverpool line-up then came to the fore. Former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey eclipsed Henderson with a similar but more potent strike on 23 minutes, swerving into the top corner after finding time and space on the edge of the penalty area.

Shelvey apologetically held aloft his arms and the Kop applauded. He took his repentance rather too far by going off at half-time with a hamstring twinge, a blessed relief for his former club as he was starting to control midfield.

By then, Swansea had both equalised and conceded a third.

Martin Skrtel is starting to epitomise Liverpool's defensive uncertainty, the Slovakian's best moments recently being in the opposition's box, or certainly as far removed as possible from his own.

After losing possession and conceding a free-kick 30 yards from goal, Skrtel then deflected Wilfried Bony's glancing header past Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool found themselves back in the starting blocks and promptly moved back into top gear before half-time when Luis Suarez crossed for Sturridge to head his side back in front.

Still calamity in the Liverpool's defence was never far away and Skrtel's abysmal afternoon deteriorated when he conceded a 47th-minute penalty.

Referee Mike Jones adjudged him to have pulled Bony's shirt.

"It was not a penalty," complained Rodgers, but, perhaps, the crimes of previous fixtures and incessant shirt pulling were on the referee's mind.

Bony picked his spot with the penalty and the second half followed a similar pattern to the first, a game more fitting of an ice rink and puck than football pitch.

In the frenzy to find a winner, Henderson took advantage of Vorm's fumble to make it 4-3 and, despite more jitters in defence, a crucial three points was preserved.

Liverpool can't be discounted in this title race yet, but if you're looking for a reference point for this Anfield incarnation, it's hard to shake off the image of the 1995-96 season under Roy Evans. Like now, Evans' side was built on a prolific striking partnership and an attacking midfield that, on its day, was destructive.

They never won the title because, among other issues, they had a defence containing Phil Babb.

There's no doubt going forward this Liverpool team can keep the pace. It is their own defence, however, that needs to prove it can keep up. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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