SWANSEA 3-1 LIVERPOOL
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s decision to field a younger squad proved to be fruitless against an inspired Swansea side, as the home side registered a comfortable 3-1 victory. The win guaranteed Swansea safety in the Premier League table with 2 games remaining, while the defeat puts Liverpool outside the top 7 in the league table with Southampton also climbing above the Reds with a comfortable 4-2 victory against Manchester City.
Liverpool starting XI:
Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Smith,
Stewart, Chirivella, Ibe, Coutinho, Ojo,
Subs: Mignolet, Teixeira, Lallana, Lucas, Brannagan, Benteke
The upcoming fixture in the Europa League against Villarreal looked like the factor that inspired Klopp to make drastic changes in the overall squad for the game at Swansea. In fact, Klopp chose to exclude the likes of Joe Allen, Kolo Toure, Alberto Moreno, James Milner and Roberto Firmino for the trip to Wales, choosing several youngsters from the academy instead.
Dominant first half performance by Swansea
While the Reds started with a good momentum, the Swans gradually started organizing their attack after the first quarter and they took the lead within 20 minutes courtesy of a headed goal by Andre Ayew from a corner. Just 13 minutes later, Jack Cork scored the second goal for Swansea with a superb curling goal from outside the box. The Liverpool attack did begin to threaten a bit after the 2 goal deficit, but the attempts led by Sturridge proved fruitless. It thus ended 2-0 in the first half.
Uninspiring second half
Klopp decided to immediately make two changes to the squad, bringing Benteke in place of Coutinho and Lucas in place of Chirivella. The changes boosted Liverpool’s attack and in the 67th minute Benteke capitalized by heading in a goal from a wonderful cross by Sheyi Ojo. It was at this point that fans began relishing the prospect of a comeback. But, the hopes would fade away in less than 2 minutes as Ayew scored his second goal for the Swans and defensive errors inside the box gave the opposing striker an easy chance. While Liverpool kept attacking once in a while, all hopes of a comeback were lost in the 76th minute as Liverpool were reduced to 10 men after Brad Smith received his second yellow card and Brannagan would be brought in place of Ibe.
Klopp fully focused on the Europa League title
With the hopes of gaining an automatic league spot in Europe almost over, Klopp seems to have made Europa League his top priority for the rest of the season. Liverpool are virtually guaranteed a finish inside the top half of the league table and have hardly any genuine incentive to sacrifice their Europa League title ambitions for just the 6th or 7th spot in the Premier League. If Liverpool manages to defeat Villarreal in the semis and then manage to claim their first trophy in 4 seasons, Liverpool will qualify directly to the Champions League group stages, which would perhaps assist Klopp a lot in rebuilding the Reds for the next season.
Liverpool next play against Villarreal at Anfield on Thursday and Liverpool will need to reverse their 1-goal deficit to ensure that they do indeed qualify for the finals in Basel. However, despite the lack of big achievements so far in the season, fans have been fortunate enough to witness some epic comebacks from the Reds. Hopefully, Klopp’s men will be able to give fans some genuine reason to cheer for this Thursday at Anfield.