It looked like another one of those days. Liverpool played tremendous football for most of the first 65 minutes, but couldn't find the back of the net and then fell victim to an unlucky bounce that set up a great finish from Marvin Emnes to grant Swansea a shock 1-0 lead. However, a substitute goal by Mario Balotelli, a questionable red card shown to Federico Fernández, and a headed winner from Dejan Lovren were enough to send Liverpool into the next round.
There were some interesting dynamics in Liverpool's starting eleven due to the absences of notable names such as Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard. Jordan Henderson partnered with Lucas in the midfield, which worked well for the Reds as Hendo provided the Brazilian defensive midfielder some protection and Lucas excelled at recovering the ball in the center of the pitch and recycling it to the more creative players in the team.
Ahead of Hendo and Lucas, Coutinho took on the responsibility of primary playmaker and performed brilliantly. He took advantage of pockets of space in Swansea's defensive midfield, driving at the visitor's back line and creating opportunities for himself and others. Over the last few games Coutinho has returned to his immense preseason form, which is a nice surprise after he struggled so mightily when the season first began.
Lazar Markovic, who has also struggled early on in the season, hasn't picked it up yet and continued to look devoid of confidence against Swansea. His movement is excellent, but he's struggling to do much with the ball at his feet. In this match, Markovic was part of a fluid front three that also included Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert. While Borini impressed throughout and assisted Balotelli's equalizer with perfectly arced cross, Lambert looked slow and disconnected from the side.
The match started well for the men in red, as Liverpool exploited the lack of high pressure from Swansea with quick, short passes up the pitch. Most times Liverpool lost the ball they would win it right back through energetic pressing work, and so Swansea were forced to defend for most of the first half.
The Swans defended well and despite a huge advantage in possession, Liverpool failed to create many meaningful chances. Borini had a few nice attempts and Markovic shanked a shot from an open position in the area, but for the most part Liverpool resorted to shots outside the box.
Swansea became more aggressive in the second half, which made the game more two-sided. Nevertheless, it was a surprise when a looping deflection fell to Emnes in the 65th minute and he slotted it into the bottom right corner to give his side the lead.
Liverpool were boosted by the introductions of Balotelli and Adam Lallana in the 70th and 79th minutes. The combination of Balotelli and Borini, which I've advocated for in recent weeks, worked immediate wonders as Borini's cross from the right wing was turned in by his mercurial teammate for a much needed equalizer.
After the Balotelli goal, Liverpool displayed more assuredness. Their confidence increased when Fernandez was controversially sent off for a challenge on Coutinho, and moments later Liverpool finished the comeback as Lovren headed past a flapping Gerhard Tremmel who had unintelligently vacated his goal.
No matter how little this cup matters to you, avoiding another defeat to a lesser side was crucial to Liverpool's confidence. The fact that it was Balotelli and Lovren on the scoresheet -- two players who have been brutally criticized in recent weeks -- makes this win even sweeter.
-This was by far Glen Johnson's best performance of the year. He forced turnovers, didn't give the ball away, and even took a decent shot on goal.
-Henderson did well. He'll be a great captain in due time.
-Borini has to start on Saturday after what he showed today.