SWANSEA: James Milner propelled Liverpool to second place in the Premier League as his late penalty secured a 2-1 win against Swansea City on Saturday.
Milner’s spot-kick sealed an impressive comeback for Jurgen Klopp’s team and enabled the Reds to move to within two points of Premier League leaders Manchester City, who face Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Liverpool trailed to an early Leroy Fer goal at the Liberty Stadium and looked second-best before Roberto Firmino took control to inspire his side’s fourth successive league victory.
“We showed a reaction, were more organised, clear in all situations and we deserved to win,” said Klopp.
“The performance was not perfect, but it was good enough today.”
Brazil forward Firmino scored Liverpool’s equaliser early in the second half and won the crucial penalty that Milner converted in the final minutes.
Struggling Swansea’s fifth defeat in seven league games will increase the pressure on manager Francesco Guidolin, who has had to deal with speculation he is set to lose his job.
Ryan Giggs and Bob Bradley are among the names reportedly lined up as potential replacements for Guidolin.
“I don’t know. It’s not my decision,” Guidolin said when asked about the reports.
“It’s just for me to prepare for the game and the team. I know the situation. It’s a possibility. The important thing is to prepare with patience.”
Klopp made one change to the side that thrashed Hull City 5-1 at Anfield a week ago, with Dejan Lovren returning to the starting line-up at centre-back in place of Ragnar Klavan.
There was a solitary change, too, in the Swansea team following their 3-1 defeat by Manchester City as striker Borja Baston started a league game for the first time in place of the injured Fernando Llorente.
Former Atletico Madrid forward Borja was in the thick of the action, but wasted an early chance to endear himself to the locals by heading over from Wayne Routledge’s fine cross.
Liverpool’s defence was looking surprisingly fragile despite Lovren’s return to action and Fer made the most of the instability to put the home side ahead.
– Backlash –
Borja atoned for his earlier lapse when he rose above Joel Matip at the far post to get his head to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner.
He nodded down into the goalmouth, where Fer applied the finishing touch from close range.
There were suspicions of offside, but Fer got the benefit of the doubt and sprinted off in celebration of his fourth goal this season.
A Liverpool backlash was expected, but Swansea belied their lowly status as they enjoyed the upper hand against high-flying opponents.
Fer exemplified their self-belief when he tried his luck from distance, only to see his shot veer off target, before Jack Cork had a shot on the stretch comfortably saved.
Borja should have doubled the lead midway through the first half when Lovren misjudged Sigurdsson’s free-kick, but he headed wide.
Klopp’s worries deepened when Adam Lallana had to be withdrawn with a groin injury, a problem that will put the attacking midfielder in doubt for England’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia.
Little was going right for Liverpool and Daniel Sturridge was rightly booked by referee Michael Oliver for diving in the Swansea penalty area.
However, Liverpool looked invigorated after half-time and Swansea were suddenly on the back-foot as momentum swung in the visitors’ favour.
It was left to Firmino to be the Liverpool saviour when he nodded past Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski from skipper Jordan Henderson’s lobbed cross.
Determined Swansea defending kept Liverpool at bay for a while, but the hosts cracked at last with six minutes left.
The incessant Liverpool pressure paid off when Swansea substitute Modou Barrow made a mess of trying to clear his lines, the ball ballooned up in the air and Angel Rangel fouled Firmino.
Milner, traditionally a midfielder but deployed at left-back this season, showed no mercy with a cool finish from the penalty spot.