SWANSEA, United Kingdom, November 25 – There were no goals but no shortage of goalmouth action as the return of Brendan Rodgers produced a lively 0-0 draw between Swansea City and Liverpool on Sunday.
The former Swansea manager saw his Liverpool side fashion half a dozen genuine opportunities against a Swansea team who were equally inventive.
In the end, it was a case of close but not close enough as the sides shared the points at the Liberty Stadium.
Thankfully, the pre-match handshakes passed without incident, too.
Swans captain Ashley Williams criticised Liverpool striker Luis Suarez in a book that was released this week but he shook hands with the Uruguayan prior to kick-off.
The early exchanges belonged to Swansea, with Pablo Hernandez and Michu posing one or two problems for a Liverpool side who came into the game as one of the division’s under-achievers this term.
That said, it was Liverpool who had the first genuine opportunity.
Suarez was foiled by Chico Flores and, when the ball broke to Raheem Sterling, the 17-year-old scuffed his shot.
A Glen Johnson header from a Steven Gerrard corner sailed harmlessly over, before Pepe Reina was called into action to push aside a smart strike from Wayne Routledge at the other end.
The best chance of the opening quarter, however, came in the 17th minute when Jose Enrique failed to find the target from six yards after a pin-point centre from Johnson.
It was certainly living up to its billing as a game for the football purist.
Both sides played through midfield with both team’s players comfortable on the ball under pressure.
Suarez failed to connect with a whipped cross from Enrique and moments later, Martin Skrtel cut out Leon Britton’s cross with Michu waiting to pounce on the penalty spot.
Liverpool’s patience was almost rewarded in the 25th minute when Johnson, arriving late, was denied by a wonderful save from Gerhard Tremmel.
For Swansea, the real concern was the ease with which Joe Allen and Gerrard opened up a back four that included Flores for the first time in three weeks.
Hernandez was next to threaten. The Spaniard worked himself into an acre of space on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area but saw his measured shot curl narrowly wide of Reina’s far post.
Sterling went closer on the half hour when he struck the bar from 18 yards and both Gerrard and Suarez had shots blocked as the visitor turned up the heat.
Enrique then had a goal chalked off for offside after a delicate chip from Suarez, 11 minutes before the interval, and there was no let-up after the break, with both sides desperate to gain the ascendency.
After Gerrard’s left-foot shot was gathered by Tremmel, Suarez was denied by the German goalkeeper at his near post and Sterling was forced into a corner after an initial break that had Swansea at sixes and sevens.
Michu’s header gave Reina his first work of the half but the goalkeeper had little or no chance when Williams rose above Daniel Agger to head goalwards.
Thankfully, for the visitors, Allen was on the far post to clear.
With both sides unwilling to settle for a share of the spoils, chances continued to come thick and fast.
They were far from as clear cut as they had been in the first half, until Suarez and Sterling butchered a two-on-one situation eight minutes from time.
Liverpool looked odds-on to score but Sterling’s return pass to Suarez was too wide and though the Uruguayan cut inside to create an opportunity, he struck his shot straight into Tremmel’s midriff.
Reina turned a Hernandez free kick around the post for a corner, three minutes later, before Tremmel had to produce a flying save to repel Liverpool substitute Jonjo Shelvey in injury time.