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Liverpool Rediscover Flair After Adam Lallana’s Double Sinks Swansea

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LIVERPOOL ended 2014 as they began it. Their defence can still cause palpitations from the most harmless situations but, more importantly for Brendan Rodgers, the relentless attacking threat that underpinned their title challenge and then went awol made its return against Swansea City.

Garry Monk’s men, like so many at Anfield last season, struggled to find a solution. Swansea contributed to their own demise with Lukasz Fabianski handing one goal to Adam Lallana and Jonjo Shelvey completing the scoring for his former club. There could be further punishment for the Swansea midfielder from the Football Association after he threw an arm into the face of Emre Can. Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, too, may be sweating for raising a hand to his provocateur Federico Fernández, but otherwise this was a performance to savour from the forward triumvirate of Sterling, Lallana and Philippe Coutinho.

All three were afforded standing ovations as they departed from Liverpool’s biggest home win of a trying season. All three displayed the movement, touch and creativity that Rodgers’ team have lacked without Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge and were at the heart of several sweeping moves that illustrated how confidence is returning at Anfield. Lallana finished off the best in style, his gradual improvement indicative of that belief now flowing through the Liverpool team.

Rodgers said: “In the last two or three weeks the performance level has been much closer to what we were over the last 18 months. A lot of hours have gone into finding a tactical idea that allows us to get back to that. Apart from a ridiculous spell after we scored the second goal when we gave the ball away cheaply, conceded one and did our best to give them another goal, it was a real dominant performance.”

Liverpool rarely allowed Swansea out of their own half before the interval as they controlled proceedings and tested Fabianski through Martin Skrtel, who collected a fifth booking of the season and will miss Leicester City’s visit on New Year’s Day, Sterling and Coutinho. The Germany Under-21 midfielder Can started in central defence and was not flustered until being smacked in the face by Shelvey’s flailing arm. Shelvey had been told before the game by his manager to “wise up” against needless bookings. He is not one for taking advice.

Sterling’s indiscretion was not as dangerous but the match officials missed both incidents and retrospective action may follow. Monk did not see the incident and intended to review it on the journey home. Rodgers said: “I have seen the two incidents. The cameras will probably show them 100 times and we will get bored of watching it. I think the referee called both right and got on with the game.”

Liverpool took the lead through one of many incisive attacks, though not many usually commence with a good ball out of defence by Mamadou Sakho. The France international sent Alberto Moreno scurrying down the left, he found Lallana, who in turn released Jordan Henderson to the byline. Moreno continued his run into the penalty area and converted from close range when the cross arrived despite Fabianski’s best efforts on the line. Swansea made a more determined start to the second half but undermined their chances of recovery with a comical error. Not that anyone connected with the visitors, and Fabianski in particular, was laughing. The former Arsenal goalkeeper was presented with what should have been a routine clearance by Ashley Williams’ back-pass. Instead, and seemingly oblivious to the in-rushing Lallana, he attempted to sweep the ball out wide and succeeded only in hitting the Liverpool player who reeled away in delight as the ball dropped into the unguarded net.

Liverpool’s hopes of a second successive clean sheet were extinguished within a minute when Can and Sakho failed to clear crosses and Gylfi Sigurdsson buried a simple finish. Wilfried Bony was denied an equaliser by Simon Mignolet as Rodgers’ side wobbled but, with Lallana and Coutinho in confident mood, Liverpool regained absolute control.

Lallana’s second goal of the night, Liverpool’s third, was an outstanding reminder of what last season’s title challenge was based upon. Henderson played a simple pass to Coutinho who sent the £25m summer signing sprinting through the centre with an exquisite backheel. The former Southampton captain drifted away from Fernández and Àngel Rangel before burying a fine finish into the far corner.

Liverpool’s fourth completed a miserable return to Merseyside for Shelvey, who somehow glanced Henderson’s corner to the near post beyond his own goalkeeper and into the far side of the Swansea net. Monk looked on aghast at Swansea’s latest act of self-destruction but this was a night when Liverpool recaptured their flair. – The Guardian

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