By the time the final whistle was blown, there were nothing but smiles around Anfield — well, that is, if you weren’t part of the contingent of travelling West Ham United supporters.
Three league wins on the hop, another clean sheet and a pair of goals for the Kop to celebrate all topped off with Daniel Sturridge making his first appearance for the better part of five months. After a blustery opening period where Liverpool created but failed to deliver, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling combined well to send the youngster free for his eighth goal of the campaign. If that didn’t quite amount to sweet relief after a frustrating week, than seeing Sturridge find the net with what looked to be a routine finish a mere twelve minutes after replacing Lazar Markovic was more than enough to get those endorphins rushing along.
Liverpool were once again plagued by an inability to truly kill the match off, but rare goals from Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert on either side of the half were more than enough to put their hosts to the sword as the Reds ran out winners in the Midlands.
Much Like last weekend’s trip to Sunderland, Brendan Rodgers side started brightly and were enjoying dictating proceedings when Borini put the visitors ahead with a cool finish from Jordan Henderson’s cross. Villa found thier feet after the break though and when Rickie Lambert put the match out of their reach with a composed finish from the edge of the area, it was only through sheer luck that he was giving them a two goal cushion.
I find it highly unlikely that anyone is going to argue with me if I say that we could have done way better, but I’m also pretty sure even few are going to complain too loud about picking up three points at the Stadium of Light.
Lazar Markovic, filling in for the injured Adam Lallana as one of Liverpool’s front three, was denied a stonewall penalty early in the first half, but he got his revenge not long after when he ran onto a Fabio Borini lay-off on the edge of the area to slot home between Black Cats ‘keeper Costel Pantilimon’s legs and give the visitors a deserved lead. The Reds were the only team with the ball in the first half, and though they looked like they were going to push on and get more than a few more, no one decided to bring their shooting boots for the short trip to Wearside.
By the time the final whistle was blown at Anfield, it was hard to say whether Liverpool had thrown away two points in the draw with Leicester City, or if they got away with more than they deserved.
Riyad Mahrez could very well of scored a brace in the opening exchanges when his cheeky free-kick cannoned off the post and his effort from Jeff Schlupp’s cross flew inches wide, but it was the hosts who went into the break two goals to the good on the back of a pair of first half penalties — one controversial and one clear cut — which were duly converted by Steven Gerrard. The Reds never looked convincing though and a second half fightback from the Foxes saw the visitors draw level through Dave Nugent and Jeff Schlupp in a span of less than two minutes as Brendan Rodgers side once again fell embarrassingly apart at the back.
If Liverpool’s poor performance at Turf Moor in the 1-0 win over Burnley on Boxing Day provided some extra nerves going into their meeting with Swansea City, the Anfield outfit wasted no time in abating them with a dominant performance from the word GO.
Alberto Moreno bagged his second goal of the season just over a half an hour into proceedings when Jordan Henderson’s cross allowed the fullback to finish from close range. Adam Lallana doubled the lead just after the break when he charged down Lukasz Fabiasnki’s attempted clearance, but the visitors struck back less than two minutes later when Gylfi Sigurdsson smashed past a stranded Simon Mignolet. Despite pulling back into touching distance of a result, the Swans never quite looked like convincing challengers and Lallana’s superb second was well complimented by Jonjo Shelvey’s own goal to see the Reds end the calendar year in style.