MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 26 – Liverpool consolidated their place in the Premier League’s top four with a dominant home victory over managerless bottom side Swansea after hammering them 5-0 on Boxing Day.
Philippe Coutinho’s sublime long-range finish – curled into the top corner after Mohamed Salah’s pass – opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
The away side responded well and dominated possession for spells in the first half but Roberto Firmino should have doubled the lead when he dragged wide just before the break.
Instead, the Brazil international put his side two goals up six minutes after half-time, firing home from Coutinho’s lofted free-kick.
Nineteen-year-old full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold added a third with his first Premier League goal for the club, chasing down a loose clearance and smashing in off the bar from inside the box.
Just two minutes later, Swansea self-destructed further as Salah pounced on a misplaced pass before cutting back to Firmino to tap home – then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain completed the rout by planting the ball in the net after another poor clearance.
The result means Jurgen Klopp’s side reclaim fourth spot from Tottenham and restore their one-point advantage over the north London side, who briefly moved above them with a 5-2 win over Southampton in Boxing Day’s 12:30 GMT kick-off.
Swansea stay bottom of the table, five points from the safety of West Ham’s 17th place.
After Friday’s thrilling 3-3 draw at Arsenal, in which the Reds conceded three times in five minutes, Klopp rejected claims his side do not focus enough on defence.
The Liverpool backline was not given its greatest test at Anfield on Tuesday – Swansea’s best football was played in the transition from defence to attack without actually threatening – but nor were there many instances of sloppiness or lapses in concentration.
Indeed, Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet pulled off a great fingertip save to deny Tammy Abraham with the last touch of the game.
Down the other end, there was much, much more of the rich and flowing offensive play that has typified the other side to the story of Liverpool’s season so far.
Salah, Firmino and Coutinho interchanged at will and Swansea found their close control and trickery in the box impossible to deal with. The only problem for Liverpool was it perhaps took slightly longer than it should have done for them to reach their ruthless best.
Salah, who went into this game having scored 15 goals in his previous 15 matches, was guilty of wasting several good chances before Alexander-Arnold really did open the floodgates with a third goal that left the visitors backtracking and beaten for the rest of the match.
Firmino was withdrawn in the 68th minute – denied the chance of a likely hat-trick – and his replacement Dominic Solanke might have had a treble of his own, flashing his most impressive effort just wide of the post on the volley.
However, the fact the England Under-20 World Cup winner failed to score his first Liverpool goal was the biggest of small problems for Klopp, who embraced the young forward with an ironic grin as they made their way off the pitch.
The nightmare after Christmas
It was always going to be a daunting task for Swansea.
This was a trip to the one of the league’s top-scoring sides and their second of four matches in 10 days. The Welsh club with just three wins all season had the odds firmly stacked up in opposition.
But until Alexander-Arnold’s goal – crafted from sheer desire to beat his man to the ball and profit – the Swans were actually still in it.
Roque Mesa, Tom Carroll and Leroy Fer had impressed with some attractive interplay, Wayne Routledge was a threat on the wing and in the first half they were averaging about 14% more possession than Anfield’s other visitors this season.
However, when Fer played the ball back to his defence without looking and found Salah instead, the game really was up. Firmino added the easy fourth, before slack defending from forward Jordan Ayew allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain a second chance to make it five.
Even if his influence and potential candidacy will not be judged on this result alone, temporary player-manager Leon Britton will surely be very disappointed his side folded like they did.