Andre Ayew’s double ensured Swansea are safe from the threat of Premier League relegation as Liverpool’s weakened team crashed to a 3-1 defeat at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
Ghana forward Ayew was on target either side of a wonderful strike from Jack Cork to move Swansea onto 43 points and guarantee they will be playing in the English top-flight next season.
It was a lacklustre effort from Liverpool, who saw Australian defender Brad Smith sent off in the closing stages as the Reds were left to lick their wounds ahead of their Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.
With Thursday’s game in mind, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp made eight changes from this week’s 1-0 first leg defeat in Spain and the visitors paid the price.
Only Philippe Coutinho, Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren survived and Klopp’s starting line up was the youngest Liverpool had ever sent out in the Premier League.
Pedro Chivirella, making his Liverpool league debut, and Kevin Stewart provided cover in front of the back four where Smith was employed at left back.
Having been ticked off by referee Roger East for a late challenge on Wayne Routledge, Smith played his part in creating Liverpool’s first chance of the game.
Unfortunately, when Jordon Ibe picked out Daniel Sturridge at the near post, the striker’s volley was off target.
Swansea’s first opportunity fell to leading scorer Gylfi Sigurdsson.
However, on this occasion, the Icelandic midfielder was denied by goalkeeper Danny Ward.
Ayew was off target with a volley 90 seconds later, and though Liverpool posed a threat going forward, their careless distribution was causing them all sorts of issues.
Swansea broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when a sweeping move led to a corner on the left.
– Teasing –
Sigurdsson whipped in a teasing set-piece and Ayew rose to head home for his first goal since January.
It could have been two, five minutes later, had it not have been for Welsh goalkeeper Ward.
Neil Taylor’s precise cross was met by Cork, who saw his goalbound shot kicked away by the diving Ward.
A minute later, Jordi Amat head Sigurdsson’s corner over the top from four yards.
There was nothing Ward or any one of the Liverpool defenders could do about Cork’s 33rd minute strike from 25 yards.
The former Southampton midfielder curled the ball beyond Ward after dispossessing Coutinho.
It was Swansea who continued to dominate after half-time, with Cork, Leon Britton and Sigurdsson setting the tempo.
But Klopp had sent on Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva and Belgian striker Christian Benteke at half-time and the substitutes helped Liverpool regain some momentum.
Their desire and ambition almost brought its reward on the hour when Nathaniel Clyne found himself inside the penalty area with only Lukasz Fabianski to beat.
The Swansea goalkeeper was equal to the threat and with the help of Taylor deflected the ball for a corner.
Yet from the ensuing 65th corner, Liverpool were level.
Sheyi Ojo’s corner picked out Benteke, who dived to head past Fabianski from close-range.
Liverpool’s joy turned to despair two minutes later.
Jefferson Montero was the catalyst with a surging run before finding Ayew in the penalty area.
Ayew showed his strength to hold off Liverpool’s defenders before finding the bottom corner with a cool finish from 12 yards.
Any hopes of a Liverpool fightback were shattered 14 minutes from time when Smith was sent off for a second yellow card.