Brendan Rodgers has to ride some punches since he became Liverpool manager but this one will have hurt.
Stood on the touchline, hands stuffed in his pockets, he listened as the Swansea supporters who once idolised him crowed that he was ‘getting sacked in the morning’ after the visitors produced a highly polished, lethal display that ended Liverpool’s reign as holders of the Capital One Cup.
Goals either side of half-time from Chico Flores and Nathan Dyer, and a late clincher from Jonathan de Guzman, gave Michael Laudrup’s side a thoroughly deserved win.
Not even the introduction of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez could lift Liverpool above the distinctly ordinary.
This was only Liverpool’s second home tie in the League Cup since they were humbled by Northampton in September 2010 and while Rodgers made nine changes to the side that had drawn at Everton, he did not pick an inexperienced team.
Mindful of the fact Liverpool have gone out at this stage the last four times they have been defending the trophy, the manager chose a team that cost more than £60million but there was to be no blistering start from this Anfield collective.
If anything, Swansea’s opening was much more assured. Laudrup had been similarly bold in his selection — seven of those who started at Manchester City on Saturday began this contest — and they were backed by an impressive, vocal following from South Wales.
Little has changed in terms of the style of play since Laudrup took over from Rodgers and one rat-a-tat-tat exchange that saw Pablo Hernandez and Michu exchanging passes ended with the Spanish winger having a shot blocked by a desperate challenge from Sebastian Coates.
Liverpool’s response was immediate. A counter-attack on the half-hour saw a posse of white shirts trying to keep pace with Stewart Downing but his shot lacked the accuracy of that howitzer against Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League and was easily dealt with by Gerhard Tremmel.
Back came Swansea. Michu picked Joe Allen’s pocket and charged 60 yards upfield, playing in Dyer. The winger wasted no time in picking out De Guzman but his chip lacked the accuracy to trouble Brad Jones.
The Australian keeper is enjoying his longest run of consecutive starts in Liverpool’s goal but there was to be no clean sheet on this occasion as, after 34 minutes, Swansea deservedly took the lead with a goal that left their former manager wincing.
After Jones had turned Ki-Sung Yeung’s 25-yard effort around the post, Dyer’s outswinging corner was powered in by Chico from 12 yards after he had outmuscled and outmanoeuvred Coates.
That moment summed up everything about the first half. Swansea, all tenacity, drive and hunger, wanted things more than Liverpool and frequently looked as if they could pick holes in their opponents’ defences.
For Rodgers to bring on Suarez and Gerrard after the break showed how seriously he was taking things and the response was immediate.
Within 90 seconds, Suarez had twice worked his way into goal-scoring positions and headed a chance over the bar from Jonjo Shelvey’s cross over the bar.
Liverpool continued to press but, as has so often been the case, their possession brought no final punch. It was going to take something different to open Swansea up and Gerrard came close with a 25-yard drive that Tremmel tipped on to the post.
Downing should have finished the follow-up but he scuffed his effort horribly wide and Liverpool almost paid an immediate penalty. Jones needed to be at is best to keep out a Michu shot before Jamie Carragher charged down a blockbuster from Dyer.
The winger put Swansea 2-0 ahead when he finished another rapier break after 72 minutes but Suarez gave Liverpool hope when he headed home four minutes later. Swansea put the seal on a fantastic performance when Michu sped away down the right and squared for De Guzman, who slotted into an empty net deep into injury time. – Daily Mail