Having gone over two games without scoring at Anfield and still struggling to find a solid eleven, Brendan Rodgers had a challenge in rotating a Liverpool squad for a midweek cup clash against Swansea City.
The Swans beat the Reds the first time Rodgers’ old team faced his new team in the League Cup and, after Marvin Emnes’s fortunate goal, a repeat looked likely. Yet, Liverpool rallied in the final ten minutes to come from behind, scoring seconds before the stoppage time whistle for a 2-1 Capital One Cup victory.
Liverpool started the far better side, generating some early shots but unable to break down Swansea’s defense. The brightest force for the home side, Philippe Coutinho started strong, creating chances for himself and others.
In the 27th minute, Coutinho started a sequence that offered potential signs of shaking the scoring drought, when he linked with a driving Jordan Henderson, who slipped the ball left to Lazar Markovic racing in behind the defense only to send the ball wildly into the crowd. It was the Reds’ best chance of the opening half.
Still, Liverpool continued to press defensively and try to force the issue in attack. Fabio Borini nearly manufactured a chance out of nothing when he picked off a Jonjo Shelvey back pass in the 34th minute and cut into the penalty area, forcing a save from Swans goal keeper Gerhard Tremmel. The industry of Coutinho, Henderson, and Borini continued to suggest the Reds might break the tie open.
As the second half continued scoreless, and Liverpool found penetration difficult, the away side grew in confidence and began to get on the ball with longer stretches of possession. Then Swansea benefitted from a series of unfortunate deflections to open the scoring.
In the 65th minute Henderson blocked a Shelvey pass that landed in the path of Neil Taylor, as he surged toward the box met by a Borini challenge, resulting in the ball rebounding up and over a slowly reacting defense, right onto Emnes boot. The Swansea forward capitalised, finishing fast and flawlessly. The goal was against the wider run of play and created an even greater sense of urgency for the home side.
Within five minutes Glen Johnson advanced to lash a hard, dipping shot from 22 yards out, forcing a Tremmel save and Taylor denied Borini’s attempt to convert the rebound. On the ensuing corner, Coutinho served a ball Kolo Toure reached with a header that flashed to Rickie Lambert, who had an attempt headed off the line by Jay Fulton, leaving Liverpool still searching for a finish.
In the 74th and 75th minutes of play both Lambert and Coutinho found room to shoot from the edge of the box, respectively. Neither could find a way past Tremmel and Liverpool continued to struggle creating any penetration.
Then Mario Balotelli entered the game for Lambert in an effort to manufacture an equaliser. It came in the 86th minute, when the Italian beat Angel Rangel to a Borini cross, just right of the penalty spot, for a classy finish.
As the match looked like it was heading into extra time, Swansea’s Federico Fernandez received a very harsh straight red card. It was a stoppage time surprise that would only be eclipsed moments later when Coutinho delivered an excellent free kick from the left touch line to the back post, where Dejan Lovren headed into the net in the dying seconds of the match.
It was a dramatic recovery and redeeming for the two Liverpool scorers who came through and delivered a needed result to capitalise on a quality performance. The joy of the win was clear, and two goals within ten minutes relieved the mounting frustration for the team and pressure being felt by newcomers Balotelli and Lovren. It was a much-needed victory with a trip to Newcastle, riding two wins, waiting for the weekend. Progress is yet in store for the back of this busy period of fixtures.