Ayew 20' 67'
A central midfield with a combined five league starts and combined age of 41 with Martin Skrtel behind them. What could possibly go wrong?
Liverpool were very, very bad today. Honestly, there's not much more to be said. We've been spoiled by the success against Stoke and Bournemouth with these changed sides – and, obviously, to a much lesser extent against Newcastle, at least in the first half – but this was closer to what I initially feared. Swansea overran Liverpool's inexperienced midfield, Skrtel Skrtel'd, and everyone else looked like they'd rather be anywhere else besides cold and drenched in South Wales.
Liverpool looked like a much-changed away side that knows it's probably finishing seventh and nothing but the Europa League matters, Swansea looked like a home side that knows it needs a win to mathematically prevent relegation. So be it.
Swansea had a handful of open play chances before the opener, but it's fitting that opener came from a set play. Sturridge doesn't track Ayew's run towards the six-yard box (maybe it's zonal and he's not supposed to?), Skrtel and Lovren get their positioning wrong, and there's nothing Ward can do. It's the 19th set play goal that Liverpool have conceded in all competitions, the 14th in the league. It's the danger of defending set plays with a heavily changed line-up. It's the Cancer-AIDS that seems to infect Liverpool's defending every time that Skrtel and Lovren play together.
Danny Ward tried to keep Liverpool in the game, with an excellent save then punch on Cork then Ayew in the 26th, but there was again nothing he could do in the 33rd – Cork's lovely curler after out-muscling Coutinho far too easily on a midfield duel, with Skrtel hilariously backing off into nowhere as Cork prepared to shoot. Liverpool's defense and midfield deserved every inch of the two-goal deficit.
Meanwhile, Liverpool couldn't create a damned thing at the other end, consistently losing possession when transitioning from midfield to attack, whether through intercepted passes, players caught in possession, or Ibe, Ojo, or Coutinho's unsuccessful dribbles. Liverpool were limited to a marginal penalty shout for Coutinho in the 22nd (just after Swansea's first) and Ojo's lovely long throughball for Sturridge in the 36th (just after Swansea's second), chipped wide first time from outside the box.
Halftime couldn't come quick enough, and things obviously had to change. Lucas replaced the sadly-very-out-of-his-depth Chirivella while Benteke came on Coutinho, maybe still ill but also nowhere near as effective in the #10 role as he's been on the left, even considering the shenanigans going on behind him. And the changes made Liverpool better, with Swansea probably slightly complacent, as Liverpool were against Southampton and Newcastle in recent weeks.
Lucas helped to solidify midfield, Benteke gave Liverpool an outlet to be more direct and gave Sturridge someone to play off of. But Liverpool couldn't have been much worse than in the first half, and the switch to 4-4-2 didn't pay dividends for 20 minutes, until Benteke headed in Ojo's corner from close range with Fabianski pinned on his line.
Hey, maybe game on? A comeback like the few that Liverpool have allowed too often this season?
Just when you thought Benteke's goal gave Liverpool a chance, this. All of this.
Hello and welcome to my today's series 'Swansea's Goal Looks Better With Random Music On'. Here's our first entry! pic.twitter.com/kMl4PNohDt— Paul (@Kolology) May 1, 2016
Remarkable. Lucas' dalliance is by far the most egregious offense, setting the whole sequence in motion, while Skrtel's diving tackle into thin air isn't far behind, but Skrtel then Lovren leaping for headers they weren't even close to will be massively underrated. Oh, and Ojo was probably fouled, but you can't spoil great comedy.
That was that, and that was especially that when Brad Smith picked up a second yellow nine minutes later with Swansea about to counter off of a failed Liverpool corner. At least Liverpool didn't concede any more? At least no one got hurt? At least we got further proof that Skrtel should be shot into the sun? Sigh.
This clearly isn't ideal preparation for Villarreal on Thursday. At least only two or three of the players on the pitch at the final whistle should feature then. Hopefully, one of those is Sturridge, who played 90 minutes but should still be in contention for another start.
We saw too many disappointing individual performances, and failings and failures that we've seen before. Set plays, multiple-goal away losses, attacking transitions, Skrtel, etc. But it was a 12pm game in rainy South Wales after playing Thursday evening with a very unfamiliar XI and the league position all but meaningless at this point. Whatever.
It's a very, very different story if Liverpool fail on Thursday, though.