The Liberty Stadium played host to an entertaining 2-2 draw between Swansea City and Liverpool on Monday night and inevitably, Jonjo Shelvey took center-stage in this bizarre affair. Facing his former club for the first time, the 21 year-old had a hand in each of the four goals scored on the night in what will undoubtedly go down as the most eventful and mixed performance of his career. Unfortunately, he also stole away from a few key points of Liverpool’s performance.
With 1 minute and 26 seconds played, Shelvey opened the scoring with a goal that epitomized him as a player so far. Following Jordan Henderson’s headed clearance, his volley connected with more air than anything else but a bit of good luck enabled him to recover and set off on a drive towards the Liverpool goal. He breezed past Mamadou Sakho, had his side-footed effort block but curled a neat finish into the far corner from the rebound with his left foot.
It may have been a bit clumsy at first but the recovery was impressive – trademark Shelvey. However, it concealed the fact that Sakho’s debut had gotten off to a horrific start. Liverpool’s new signing initially executed a tame header away from goal which didn’t even clear the penalty area before Henderson nodded the ball into Shelvey’s path. The Frenchman was then left flat-footed when Shelvey swerved away from him on the edge of the box.
Sakho then unforgivably ambled his way back instead of busting a gut to recover and was therefore nowhere close to getting a block in when Shelvey opened up his body to make an angle for the shot on the rebound. Unfortunately, that was only the first sighting of the former Paris Saint-Germain defender’s many errors throughout the game which raises concerns over the cover Liverpool have in central defense.
Shelvey only afforded the home support 1 minute and 37 seconds to sing his praises as he undid all his good work by gifting the away side an equalizer. His casual back-pass was intercepted and swiftly tucked away by Daniel Sturridge. The midfielder’s blunder was the major talking point on that occasion but Sturridge deserved more than a few plaudits for his anticipation.
The Liverpool striker now has 6 goals in 5 games this season and you begin to wonder if he’s evolving into a more complete striker now that he seems to have embraced his predatory instincts. His goal against Manchester United had the word ‘poacher’ written all over it while this particular strike was all down to his alertness and killer instinct to finish it off.
Later on in the half, Victor Moses did exceptionally well to wriggle his way past to players and chip the ball in for Sturridge. Michel Vorm pulled off a marvelous save to deny the striker but Sturridge’s movement was another example of his evolution. With three white shirts around the six-yard box, he managed to peel away to the back post and get his header on target. After years of primarily featuring in wide areas, the 24 year-old is finally proving himself as a classic center-forward.
In the 36th minute, Shelvey’s unnecessary attempt at an extravagant diagonal ball was played straight to Moses. The Nigerian was able to cut inside Chico Flores thanks to Sturridge’s overlapping run and his strike from just outside the area was past Vorm before he could react. Once again, all eyes were on a distraught Shelvey who had his head in his hands.
Apart from his misplaced pass, he failed to track back with any conviction. He jogged back to his goal and when Moses shifted the ball onto his right foot, he continued to jog away instead of closing him down. The Chelsea loanee was therefore under no pressure whatsoever when he unleashed the shot.
It does take away from the winger’s performance though. He was quick, strong and direct throughout and impressed on his Liverpool debut. Apart from his own qualities, his inclusion meant that Philippe Coutinho was able to feature in a central role behind the striker and that is a big plus for Brendan Rodgers.
The fourth goal though was all about Shelvey and maybe redemption for the young man. He started off the move by playing a pass into Wilfred Bony who had dropped deep. Instead of standing still, he burst forward and his run was picked out. His flicked effort found Michu who slotted home the equalizer. It was a great bit of industrious play from the youngster and he got his just rewards.The game was almost like a compilation of Shelvey’s best hopes and worst fears for his first clash against his former teammates. At the end of the day, Swansea’s summer signing showed character to keep plugging away in the game. Liverpool on the other hand would do well to uncover all that their former player’s showing concealed, the good and the bad.
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