As part of our Premier League snap-shots feature, Lewis Rutledge looks back on Swansea's goalless draw with Liverpool.
Last Updated: 25/11/12 5:26pm
Swansea City proved more than a match for Liverpool at the Liberty Stadium as Brendan Rodgers had to settle for a point on his return to his former club.
The result keeps both sides in mid-table and the respective managers will be convinced they are moving in the right direction, but there is still a sense that they have a long way to go.
Chico returned to the Swansea defence to partner Ashley Williams, who has been highly critical in his autobiography of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. Ki Sung-yueng was only fit enough for a place on the bench so Michu remained in midfield with Itay Shechter up front.
Liverpool manager Rodgers rang the changes from the Europa League draw with Young Boys with Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, captain Steven Gerrard, former Swan Joe Allen, Raheem Sterling and Suarez restored to the first-choice XI, with Andre Wisdon injured. Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing were also handed rare Premier League starts after performing well in Europe and in training.
Swansea's style is one that is now ingrained at the club and has developed since Michael Laudrup replaced Rodgers at the helm. The manager once again set his team up in a 4-5-1 formation, with ball-playing midfielders in the centre of the field and wingers Pablo Hernandez and Wayne Routledge providing support for Shechter.
Swansea were unable to boss possession like they usually do at home, however, with Liverpool learning to employ similar tactics under Rodgers. Allen is very much the main man when it comes to keeping things ticking over but he was again unable to pick out a killer pass, while neither Henderson nor Downing, in an unfamiliar left-back role behind Jose Enrique, truly grasped the chance to impress.
Laudrup was the more proactive with his changes as he decided to replace the ineffective Shechter at half-time and bring on Ki to bolster the midfield, with Michu given greater freedom to push forward. The switch worked as it helped Swansea wrestle control, while Nathan Dyer also looked lively after coming on for Wayne Routledge with a quarter of the match remaining.
Rodgers made just two changes, both with 77 minutes on the clock, and fans may wonder why he did not act earlier. Joe Cole was unable to make much of an impact after coming on for Downing, but fellow substitute Jonjo Shelvey, brought on for Henderson, did sting the palms of Gerhard Tremmel with a late shot.
With both teams preferring to play the beautiful game and not get involved in a physical scrap, it was never going to be the hardest game for official Jon Moss. There was a good flow to the match with few stoppages and the assistant referee deserves credit for correctly raising his flag for offside against Enrique when he prodded the ball home in the first half. There were a number of penalty shouts for Moss that fell into the category 'seen 'them given', but there was nothing too controversial and he was at least consistent in waving play on at both ends of the pitch.
If there was going to be a goal at the Liberty Stadium, Pablo Hernandez looked as likely as anyone to either score or create it. The Spanish winger seems to be improving by the week and he was the liveliest operator throughout, buzzing around in tricky areas for the Liverpool defence. He came close to finding the net a couple of times with fine strikes from distance, only to see one effort curl narrowly wide and another kept out by Pepe Reina.
Glen Johnson has shown himself to be a versatile performer for the Reds this season, switching from flank to flank and contributing in attack as well as defence. He was at the heart of Liverpool's best moments again on Sunday, as he forced Tremmel into a decent first-half save and headed over, whilst also staying disciplined to help keep a clean sheet.
Having drawn with Chelsea and beaten Newcastle already this month, Swansea will feel confident they can compete with anyone in the league and next go on to a home game against high-flying West Bromwich Albion. There are more tricky fixtures to come before Christmas but Laudrup is beginning to get the best out of his summer imports and will be confident of pushing further into the top half.
Liverpool fans will feel a sense of déjà vu after another draw and more missed chances, but they are now eight matches unbeaten and Rodgers should cling to the positives. The Reds face a difficult trip to Tottenham in midweek but then have some very winnable games in December and should be looking to get up into the top six by the turn of the year.