Liverpool’s Euro hopes dented by Swansea defeat

Date published: Sunday 1st May 2016 1:52

Jack Cork: Celebrates Swansea City's second goal against Liverpool

Jack Cork: Celebrates Swansea City's second goal against Liverpool

Andre Ayew scored twice as Swansea City beat Liverpool 3-1 at the Liberty Stadium to dent the Reds’ hopes of a top-six finish in the Premier League.

With the second leg of a Europa League semi-final against Villarreal to come on Thursday, Jurgen Klopp made eight changes to the side that drew with Newcastle last weekend, fielding the club’s youngest ever starting XI in the Premier League with an average age of 23 years and 218 days.

Ayew’s brace, either side of a beauty from Jack Cork, took him into double figures for the season as Swansea, 2-0 ahead at the interval, ended a run of five straight defeats against Liverpool and claimed four successive top-flight home wins for the first time since 1982.

Christian Benteke, on as a substitute, gave Liverpool hope with his ninth goal of season, but Brad Smith’s dismissal 14 minutes from time for two bookable offences ended the comeback.

The defeat leaves Liverpool seventh, only one point ahead of Southampton and four behind Manchester United ahead of their game against Leicester City.

Swansea are up to 13th and now guaranteed another season of top-flight football.

This was Liverpool’s first game on British soil since an inquest ruled on Tuesday that 96 of their supporters were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough in Sheffield 27 years ago.

The two captains, Ashley Williams and Martin Skrtel, laid wreaths before kick-off in front of the end housing Liverpool fans, and they were accepted by Barry Devonside, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Martin Skrtel Ashley Williams wreath Swansea Liverpool

Liverpool had scored 17 goals in their previous six away league games, but it was one-way traffic from the start as Swansea showed a sense of urgency which had been woefully lacking in their 4-0 defeat at Leicester seven days earlier.

Ayew, playing in an unfamiliar central striking role, was Liverpool’s chief tormentor and the Ghanaian unselfishly set up Gylfi Sigurdsson for a 12th-minute shot directed straight at Danny Ward in the visitors’ goal.

Liverpool had two further warnings from Ayew before he rose above Lovren to meet Sigurdsson’s corner in the six-yard box for his ninth goal of the season, but his first since the end of January.

Andre Ayew Swansea Liverpool

The Liverpool goal was under siege, Ward saving well from Cork with an outstretched right leg, Jordi Amat failing to convert with a close-range header and Jefferson Montero denied at the near post.

But Swansea’s persistence was rewarded when Cork won possession in midfield and advanced to send a wonderful curled shot past Ward from 22 yards.

It was the midfielder’s first goal of the season and only his second in 49 Swansea games, with his previous effort coming at Newcastle in April 2015.

Liverpool barely created a chance of note in the first period, although Daniel Sturridge went close with an opportunist chip on the run, and Klopp sent on Lucas and Benteke at half-time to try and remedy the situation.

Benteke made a positive impact when he shrugged off the attention of Sigurdsson at Sheyi Ojo’s 64th-minute corner and headed home.

But Liverpool’s hope was fleeting as Montero twisted and turned three minutes later to cause panic in the penalty area.

Ojo made a mess of controlling the loose ball and Ayew, who became the father of a baby girl on Friday night, found the bottom of the net to secure Swansea’s first league win by a two-goal margin since August.

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