Jordan Henderson’s fortuitous goal earned Liverpool a 1-0 win at Swansea Monday as they moved within two points of fourth-placed Manchester United ahead of an eagerly anticipated showdown against their bitter rivals.
Henderson scored for a third successive Premier League game to make it five successive top-flight victories for Brendan Rodgers’ team as their charge for the Champions League continues to gather pace.
Yet there was more than a stroke of luck about Henderson’s second-half winner after Swansea defender Jordi Amat’s attempted clearance ricocheted off the onrushing Liverpool midfielder and looped over goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
That will be of little concern to Liverpool’s former Swansea manager Rodgers on what was a happy return to the Liberty Stadium that means his team can leapfrog old foes United should they defeat them at Anfield Sunday.
They certainly have momentum following what has been a remarkable turnaround in recent months following a sluggish start and that this was a sixth successive away clean sheet for the first time since 1972 merely added gloss.
This was as sharp as the Swans had looked all season – their diamond midfield formation effective in stifling Henderson and Allen’s attempts to gain a grip on proceedings.
But the halftime whistle came at the wrong time for Garry Monk’s team, halting their momentum.
The warning signs were there for the home side when Daniel Sturridge’s intelligent reverse pass played Raheem Sterling into space down the Reds’ right.
His cross was met with a first-time strike from Philippe Coutinho which would have crept inside the near upright but for the fine reflexes of Fabianski.
Then, in the 68th minute, the goal Rodgers had been craving came, albeit with a large slice of good fortune.
Skrtel’s probing ball through the heart of the Swans defense was flicked on by Sturridge into space to leave Amat and Henderson in direct pursuit, yet the sliding Swansea defender’s attempted clearance inadvertently struck the Liverpool midfielder and beat the stranded Fabianski.
Meanwhile, second-tier Reading booked an FA Cup semifinal meeting with holders Arsenal at Wembley after brushing aside 10-man Bradford City 3-0 in their replay Monday.
After the first game failed to yield a goal, Reading roared into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes at the Madejski stadium.
Hal Robson-Kanu headed home a corner after six minutes and three minutes later Garath McCleary scored with a deflected shot.
Bradford’s Filipe Morais was shown a straight red card for a high challenge on Nathaniel Chalobah just past the hour and Reading made the game safe against their third-tier opponents when Jamie Mackie slammed in a third goal after 68 minutes.