Remember how multiple home draws against inferior opposition ruined the '08-09 title chase? That was fun. Let's do that again.
Out of all four of Liverpool's disappointing home draws – and I include United in that – Swansea are most deserving of the point they leave Anfield with. Rodgers' tactics were excellent, soaking up Liverpool pressure for 60 minutes before pummeling the home side for 10, then settling back into their deep, resilient defense. Still, they relied on two excellent saves from Vorm on the cusp of injury time, the first he'd had to make since the 29th minute. And it all could have been different had Carroll converted his close range chance in the 7th minute instead of hitting the woodwork. Yes, yes, the 10th time Liverpool's tattooed the goal frame in this short season.
Liverpool were rarely able to stretch Swansea, to pull at least one of those eight or nine defenders out of position, to create the havoc which led to goals like Suarez's first at Stoke. Swansea defended deeper than any side that's visited Anfield, deeper than Hodgson's dismal group sat last week, squeezing every ounce of space from the final third. That Carroll opportunity was one of the few times Liverpool passed and moved their way through the Swans, with a speedy Downing-Adam one-two down the left leading to the winger's dangerous center.
Once again, we're left ruing chances left unseized. The home side took 15 first-half shots, but only hit the target twice; nine were blocked, four were off-target. Also, approximately three of those efforts were remotely memorable: Carroll's chance and two singularly created by Suarez – a turn and shot wide in the 19th and a Vorm save in the 29th after the Uruguayan danced onto his left foot. And those three came in the first 30 minutes.
After that half an hour, Swansea were more comfortable, able to keep possession and spurred on by their 28th minute opening, when Routledge's cross to Graham would have given them the lead if not for Reina's point-blank brilliance. Comfortable on the ball, when Swansea sprang from their own half, they sprang dangerously, leading to a surprisingly open game despite the away side's packed defense. Dyer and Routledge gave Liverpool more problems than any other wingers this season; their speed restrained both Johnson and Enrique far more than expected in a home game against promoted opposition. But that Graham's chance was the only heart-in-mouth moment for Liverpool's defense in the first half.
Recognizing Liverpool's lack of width, Dalglish replaced Henderson with Kuyt during the interval, his work-rate and movement preferred to Bellamy's pace. And Liverpool momentarily threatened, with an unconscious through-ball from Adam releasing Downing, but with the winger unable to replicate his earlier cross to Carroll.
That was Liverpool's last chance until an eventual flurry in the final ten minutes. After suffocating the home side for ten minutes, Swansea counter-punched as the home side's frustration turned to out-and-out nervousness. Swansea passed and prodded and passed and struck, Liverpool flustered almost immediately the few times they managed to reclaim possession, and Reina threatened to morph from hero to goat. He again saved Liverpool when rushing out to block Dyer's 64th-minute shot, but almost gave away a goal twice. Nearly turning into Graham after lingering on a back pass sparked Swansea's burst in the 58th, then he nearly spilled Dyer's long range strike to the same player in the 65th, thankfully recovering quickly.
Gower's 84th-minute blast over, free on the spot following Sinclair's knockdown of Dyer's cross, marked the end of Swansea's threat as the away side finally tired. Bellamy coming on for Carroll with 15 to play certainly helped matters, and Liverpool spent the final few minutes frantically pushing for the needed winner. Suarez, quiet for long stretches, was typically central, nearly carving openings for Kuyt and from the byline. Vorm's sprawling save on the Uruguayan's outside-of-the-right-foot cannon in the 89th was the first of two jaw-dropping stops to seal Swansea's 'triumph', mimicking those acrobatics on Johnson's desperation thunderbolt a minute later.
Once again, Liverpool's flaws are laid bare, obvious to all. Chances missed, dominance unconverted. Not to mention the unbelievably frustrating inconceivable woodwork spawned by Satan. That Liverpool continues to hit the frame is beyond implausible, improbable, and impossible. Otherwise, Swansea swallowed Liverpool whole. Nullifying Liverpool's full-backs seems most important, denying the overlap also shut down both wingers. Henderson simply ran into defenders when cutting inside, where he found space against West Brom and Stoke, while Downing continues to struggle (although admittedly again unlucky to not register at least an assist).
But that Suarez didn't cause his usual anarchy, wasn't able to arrogantly toss as many bombs into Swansea's defense, was probably just as damaging. He was shadowed by at least two, sometimes three players at all times, a symptom of their smothering defense. Liverpool remains dangerously reliant on its little genius.
11 games into the season, already November, and regretting somewhere in the region of 10 points that have somehow slipped away makes it harder to deliver the usual rationalizations. Yes, this team is still maturing and unusually prone to set-backs. At least Liverpool didn't carelessly concede, which has happened all too infrequently – and they had multiple opportunities to do so. And, while obviously disappointed, we were treated to an eminently watchable, open game – probably even enjoyable for neutrals – a far cry from the dour, turgid, defensive side seen 12 months ago. Can't throw the baby out with the bathwater, at least there's obvious potential, etc. etc.
Just, you know, start putting the ball in the back of the net please.