Liverpool Bright Spots Prove Cold Solace in 0-0 Draw at Swansea
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will take the point, but he's got to be growing tired of that meager return from Premier League fixtures. His side's 0-0 Sunday draw away to Swansea marks the seventh draw of this campaign for the Reds.
Early on, the home side showed Rodgers that their slick passing game didn't end with the manager's departure for more famous environs.
The best chance of the early going came when Swansea found Wayne Routledge running across the Liverpool defense. Routledge sizzled his shot directly into Pepe Reina's hands, but the chance served as a bit of a wake-up call for the visitors.
Rodgers' men only really came alive when the combination of Raheem Sterling and a marauding Glen Johnson began getting down the right side of the field.
Add on Luis Suarez' lively movement at the forward position and a seemingly ever-present first-half threat posed by Jose Enrique, and Liverpool looked more and more likely as halftime approached.
Johnson got in for his side's first real opportunity in the 24th minute after playing a neat one-two with Enrique at the top of the area. But like Routledge at the other end, his shot was directly at the thankful Swansea keeper.
While Liverpool took more and more control of the match, Swansea's Pablo Hernandez remained the single brightest player each time the ball found his feet. The Spaniard repeatedly danced past his markers to loose shots on Reina's goal. But while Hernandez proved panic-inducing for visiting supporters, his accuracy proved just slightly off on the day.
Liverpool were inches away from going up by, not just one, but two goals as the game began its second half-hour.
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First, a Sterling volley in the 33rd minute banged off the crossbar, and then a minute later, Enrique finished a neat Suarez chip at the back post only to see his goal correctly disallowed as offside.
If the game were played in one 90-minute period, Liverpool might have run away with the match. As the first half wore on, Swansea's resistance looked more and more desperate.
The quartet of Sterling, Johnson, Suarez, and Enrique increasingly pounded on the door of an opener. With any help at all from the Reds' notably poor central midfield, they might have scored several. But once the Swans got to halftime, the result was effectively sealed.
The second half was noteworthy for what it lacked. Liverpool were dulled by the break. Swansea were enlivened but never particularly sharp in the final third.
A pair of heart-quickening episodes provided the sole entertainment of the last 45 minutes. First, Swansea substitute Nathan Dyer nicked the ball off the Liverpool defense. His sprint into the area forced an aggressive Reina off his line. The resulting collision left both men dazed, but the scoreline unaffected.
At the other end, Suarez and Sterling took off on a galloping two-on-one counterattack in the 83rd minute. Suarez played Sterling's feet. Sterling's return ball forced Suarez wide. And the chance died a tame death.
Liverpool added a bit of pep to their step for a brief moment in added time, forcing a pair of quick interventions from Swansea keeper Gerhard Tremmel. But the draw seemed inevitable by that point and the final whistle was a bit of mercy for the gathered supporters in the end.
The result keeps Swansea in the top half of the table (currently eighth on 17 points) and sees Liverpool stick stubbornly in the bottom half (11th on 16 points).
The simple problem for Liverpool was a complete disappearance of much of their midfield on the day. Steven Gerrard was most notable for his anonymity. And in the 77th minute, when Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing were substituted, fans might have been shocked to discover the pair had been on the pitch to begin with.
For a team enjoying its second season of Premier League football, Swansea need offer no apologies for basking in mid-table comfort. For a club like Liverpool, talk of improved spells of play in Sunday's draw should serve only as a painful reminder of just how far expectations have fallen.
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