Reds Escape Calamity In Thriller: Liverpool 4, Swansea 3

Clive Brunskill

Did that really just happen?

Liverpool repeatedly shot themselves in the foot yet came away unscathed in the race for fourth, placing themselves six points ahead of Spurs for the last Champions League spot.

Daniel Sturridge netted a brace and so too did Jordan Henderson, who was absolutely massive going forward. Liverpool's attack brimmed with top class performances while the defense, including Glen Johnson who returned from injury, coughed up a 2-0 and 3-2 lead but held on to the final 4-3 advantage. The three conceded goals came from a few mental lapses and too much space afforded in the center of the park to the Swans; when Henderson and Coutinho went forward in the attack, Steven Gerrard was left alone to protect the back line. The same free flowing football that led to four Liverpool goals also helped Swansea stay in the match.

A perfectly weighted through ball from Raheem Sterling found Sturridge in the 3rd minute, and after Sturridge evaded Michel Vorm to score, it looked like Swansea could be in for a romping. That sense escalated 17 minutes later when Jordan Henderson placed a lovely shot into the top corner of the net, giving his team a 2-0 home lead.

Then things got wild. Jonjo Shelvey answered Hendo's strike with a stunning curler of his own, deciding against celebration to the applause of Anfield. Liverpool fans were not as supportive moments later when Wilfried Bony, who looked good all game, headed a free kick off Martin Skrtel and into the net. Set piece defending has been a real issue this year, and Bony's goal exemplified Liverpool's problem well. Suddenly Swansea were drawn level and Liverpool had to find a way to get back in front.

Confidence didn't wane when Bony equalized, and Liverpool immediately pressed for a third goal. It was Sturridge who took the Reds to 3-2 in the 36th minute, heading in a splendid cross from Luis Suarez. Suarez anticipated that his strike partner would drift open, and the cross was placed right on Sturridge's head.

After a five goal opening act, it seemed like the second half would be a bit calmer as Liverpool looked to preserve their lead. That theory fell on it's face in the 48th minute when Skrtel clumsily bundled over Bony (who did go down easily) in the box. It was a penalty that we'd known would come eventually, and had been in the making since Skrtel's incessant shirt tugging became a media story line months ago. Bony converted from the spot past Mignolet who dove correctly but couldn't reach the hard effort, and Swansea pulled to a tie once more at 3-3.

Looking to regain control of the midfield, Rodgers brought on Joe Allen for Sterling, a move that was met by initial criticism but proved brilliant. Allen was as lively as I've ever seen him for Liverpool, and even though he didn't play a part in the decisive goal, he helped repel Swansea's midfield advances.

As for that decisive goal, it was a moment that embodied Hendo's Liverpool career nicely - hardworking, determined, unfazed by failure. Hendo sprinted into the area to hit a quick shot at Vorm, then followed his effort in a full on sprint, knocking the rebound into the net.

After Daniel Agger was surprisingly taken off for tactical reasons to deal with the physical presence of Bony, Liverpool managed to hold on to their lead and take all three vital home points. The defensive effort was worrisome, but for now we should simply celebrate that our hearts are still in one piece and our team is in its best position in years. These are truly exciting times for Liverpool, and the ridiculous manner in which they have found wins only makes the journey more fun in the end.

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