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New signing Philippe Coutinho marked his Liverpool debut with a goal as an understrength Swansea City side with one eye on a Wembley final next week were unravelled at Anfield.
The 20-year-old scored the important second moments after the break following Steven Gerrard's first-half penalty. Jose Enrique, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, also from the spot, then helped themselves to goals in a one-sided contest, marred by a shoulder injury to Fabio Borini which it is feared may have brought a premature end to his season.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers, facing the club he left in the summer for the third time this season, began the week talking up what an important seven days lay ahead. But after a home defeat to West Bromwich Albion and another against Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Europa League this game took on even more significance.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, with his thoughts on next weekend's Capital One Cup final, named a weakened side, selecting only four of the XI who beat Queens Park Rangers 4-1 last week and leaving out 15-goal striker Michu, captain Ashley Williams and Nathan Dyer.
The hosts looked superior from the start but initially failed to provide the finish to their good approach play. Glen Johnson planted a free header well wide, Gerrard drilled a free-kick into the wall and Suarez fired the rebound over, before the Uruguay international whipped a 25-yard free-kick just over the bar and similarly dispatched a dipping volley.
The chances continued to be created and not converted as Sturridge missed the target with a close-range header and Liverpool’s other January arrival Coutinho stabbed the loose ball wide with the goal at his mercy.
The deadline was broken when Kemy Agustien was adjudged to have fouled Suarez close to the touchline and Gerrard, having failed from the spot in front of the Kop against West Brom last Monday, went for the opposite corner and succeeded in beating Michel Vorm for Liverpool's first goal.
Sturridge had one more chance before the break but having been put through by Suarez his left-footed toe poke was blocked by the head of Bartley.
Swansea had shown little threat in the opening 45 minutes and any ideas they may have had about staging a comeback were snuffed out within 11 minutes of the restart. In truth, the 16 seconds it took the 20-year-old Coutinho to skip through the visitors' defence and beat Vorm was all that was required.
However, a well-worked goal saw Enrique poke home Sturridge's pass before Suarez went past both Swansea's centre-backs to fire home the fourth.
The persevering Sturridge was denied again by Vorm as the Reds ploughed forward almost at will with Swansea seemingly powerless to stop them or provide any effective response of their own. He finally got his goal but only courtesy of the generosity of Gerrard who relinquished penalty duties when substitute Wayne Routledge handled.
Liverpool have now scored 17 goals in their last five home games with only the two conceded against West Brom spoiling a perfect run at Anfield. They may have to make do wiithout Borini for the remainder of the campaign, however, as the Italy striker went off with a suspected dislocated shoulder injury, which Rodgers admitted afterwards could have curtailed his campaign.
With or without Borini the key for Rodgers, as it has been for the entire season, is to find a way of ensuring this is not just another flash in the pan as his side moved to within nine points of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "It was an important three points. We've been down a bit of a rocky road this week in terms of the games on Monday and Thursday, but the Premier League is very important to us and we knew we had to go out with commitment today against a Swansea team that has been brilliant this season.
"It was an outstanding performance and we really showed our character and mental toughness today to get a performance like that. Going into the game it was about keeping a clean sheet because in the last four games, we haven't been at our best defensively. So I was very pleased. We looked to dominate and create chances and we did. Like in any game of football, it's important that you start the second half well and in that little period, we scored three goals and that really gave us extra confidence.
"[Borini] will probably be out for the season. It looks like he's dislocated his shoulder. It's unfortunate. It's actually the other shoulder to a similar injury he had when he was at Chelsea. It looks like in the early stages that is the diagnosis."
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup: "We could have lost seven or eight-nil easily had it not been for Michel Vorm and that is not good enough. It is a little difficult to explain because I made a lot of changes so the first to blame is me because I picked the team. But I will not exclude players who were thinking about the game [Capital One Cup final] next week, which in a certain way is human logic because it will be the biggest game in the history of the club.
"One thing you can always ask is your team is competitive and after 45 minutes we were still in the game but they came out and scored three goals in 10 minutes – you cannot do that. I don't want to believe that it was a lack of concentration because we had just talked about it in the dressing room after the first 45 minutes. I want to see this as a single accident maybe caused by what is going to happen in seven days – at least I hope so."
|02 Mar 2013||v Wigan (A)|
|10 Mar 2013||v Tottenham (H)|
|16 Mar 2013||v Southampton (A)|
|31 Mar 2013||v Aston Villa (A)|
|07 Apr 2013||v West Ham (H)|
|13 Apr 2013||v Reading (A)|