Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Lallana comes to life as Reds smash Swans

Liverpool and Lallana ended the year on a high at Anfield last night.

The team produced their best collective performance of the season as they steamrolled Swansea, smashing four past their Welsh visitors to leapfrog them in the table. The former Southampton skipper, meanwhile, showed why the Reds parted with £25 million to secure his services during the summer as he put in his most promising display in a Red shirt.

Linking well with his fellow frontmen Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, Lallana scored twice, his first requiring a slice of luck but his second a strike of pure class. His goals were sandwiched in between Moreno’s opener and ex-Red Shelvey’s own goal, with Sigurdsson’s strike for the away side unable to spark a revival.

With fixtures coming thick and fast over the festive spell, Brendan Rodgers made the most of his deep squad, re-introducing Manquillo and Moreno to the action as attacking wing backs on either side.

Both looked far more comfortable with three centre backs behind them because it minimised their defensive duties and maximised their ability to do what they do best; bomb forward. One of those centre backs was the versatile Emre Can, who retained his place in the starting line-up after impressing at Turf Moor during the second half after he’d replaced Toure at the break.

Perhaps what will please Rodgers the most is that Liverpool managed to win convincingly, scoring four goals for the first time since March, without having to call on captain Steven Gerrard, who remained an unused substitute.

Right from the off, Liverpool were in control, although the first half was relatively uneventful, at least in comparison to the action packed second period. Skrtel headed the first chance of the match straight at Fabianski, Lallana scooped over the bar after the keeper had parried Sterling’s effort and Coutinho shot weakly at goal from 12 yards before Moreno started and ended an exquisite team move to break the deadlock on the half hour mark.

The Spaniard passed to Lallana, who in turn picked out Henderson. The captain for the night’s low square pass across the box was perfect for the on-rushing Moreno, who tapped home from close range to give Liverpool the lead they deserved at the break.

Apart from Shelvey’s elbow on Emre Can, which referee Andre Marriner missed, the only thing Swansea could muster in response was a goalmouth scramble on the stroke of half time following Sigurdsson’s free kick. Mignolet eventually came and collected, avoiding one of his customary calamities.

In fact, in a sign of Liverpool’s changing fortunes, it was the opposing keeper who made a stupid and costly error for a change six minutes after the restart. The Mignolet-esque Fabianski dawdled on the ball after receiving a back pass and his rushed clearance smashed into the quick-thinking Lallana, bouncing over the Swans’ keeper and into the Kop end net.

Moreno opened the scoring
Lallana capitalised on Fabianski's error
Sigurdsson swiftly responded for Swansea
Lallana's second was a class goal
Shelvey thought he was still playing for Liverpool for a moment!
Although obviously owing more to Swansea’s mistake than Liverpool’s ability, the first goal was an example of fruit coming from Liverpool’s high-pressing game, which replicated the excellent displays of the 2013/2014 season last night.

Unfortunately, Swansea immediately halved the arrears as Sigurdsson converted from close range after Sakho’s header fell perfectly for him. The Frenchman was under pressure from Bony, who was also competing for Routledge’s cross, and otherwise put in a pretty good display, but his error could have proved costly, as it instantly gave the away side hope of a comeback.

Following two goals in two minutes, the match came to life. Sterling shot against the post only seconds after Bony had tested Mignolet, before Fabianski denied Lallana from 20 yards. The 26-year old soon doubled his tally for the evening, however, as he beat a couple of defenders to work space for himself before striking low into the bottom right hand corner to restore Liverpool’s two-goal cushion with a superb strike on the hour mark.

Involved in everything, Lallana nearly set up Sterling for a fourth five minutes later, but the angle was impossibly tight so Sterling could only shoot into the side-netting after latching on to Lallana’s incisive through pass and rounding Fabianski. When the fourth goal did arrive on 69 minutes, it was due to Shelvey being pre-occupied with combating the threat posed by Lallana in the box and thus inadvertently turning Henderson’s right wing corner into his own net.

Excellent throughout, Lallana’s name was chanted by the Kop and he received a magnificent reception when he was replaced by Lazar Markovic with 13 minutes remaining, Seeing the best of Adam Lallana is one of the things to look forward to in 2015, and he could prove an integral part of the team if his form continues in this vein.

Balotelli also came on for the final few minutes, replacing Sterling after the youngster somehow got away with putting his hand in Federico Fernandez’s face right in front of the linesman. The Italian had a chance to score his first Premier League goal for Liverpool but squandered it with a weak shot straight at Fabianski after a neat one-two with Coutinho.

All told, it was an excellent evening’s work from the Reds, who have now only suffered one defeat in ten matches in all competitions and enjoyed back-to-back League wins. Only five points off fourth and with Leicester, Sunderland and Aston Villa next up in the League, Liverpool look to finally be heading in the right direction.


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