EPL: Reds keep up with leaders

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson celebrating his opening goal in the 20th minute. He went on to add another in the second half.

Liverpool 4 Swansea 3

LIVERPOOL - Wherever their journey takes them, this is a rollercoaster ride for Liverpool. A title challenge few expected has brought extraordinary entertainment. Too much, perhaps, for the faint-hearted but there have been more highs than lows for Brendan Rodgers and his attack-minded side.

When Jordan Henderson decided a seven-goal thriller and condemned Rodgers' former club Swansea to a defeat they hardly deserved, it confirmed that, rather than simply competing for fourth place, Liverpool are potential champions.

While Chelsea's bid is based on clean sheets, Liverpool are their opposites. They have become a byword for goals. Their last three league games have brought 18 alone, even if too many of them are in the wrong net.

They have set a Premier League record by scoring 46 times in the first half alone this season. Over the campaign as a whole, they have overhauled Manchester City who were striking at a record-breaking pace.

Ultimately, however, the crucial contribution came from a stranger to the scoresheet. Henderson had managed only two goals for the season.

He doubled his tally in the space of 90 minutes to determine a magnificent match. His £16 million (S$34 million) fee was widely criticised when he joined in 2011 but this may prove a priceless contribution from the much-improved midfielder.

He scored one of three braces in the game. Daniel Sturridge scored another, reaching a 20-goal landmark and maintaining Liverpool's habit of starting quickly.

In the third minute, Raheem Sterling bent a beautiful, outside-of-the-boot pass into the path of Sturridge. The striker's first touch took him past goalkeeper Michel Vorm.

His second was to slot the ball into the unguarded net.

Then, Henderson made his first telling intervention. His first goal was an exquisite finish. After Sturridge picked him out, the midfielder teed up a whipped, curling shot that flew past Vorm.

Strangely, Swansea were soon level. Sold by Liverpool in the summer, Jonjo Shelvey contributed to all four goals when the two teams drew 2-2 in September and was applauded by fans of both clubs when, rivalling Henderson's goal, he placed a 20-yard shot in off the underside of the bar.

Then, Martin Skrtel conceded a free kick and, after Jonathan de Guzman took it, had the final touch as it went in. In between, Wilfried Bony won a header that was diverted in off Skrtel's arm.

The drama was unrelenting, the match see-sawing one way and then the other.

Liverpool led again when Luis Suarez chipped a cross to the far post and an unmarked Sturridge climbed to head home.

Yet, Swansea came back a second time. Skrtel wrestled with Bony and the Ivorian got up to convert the resulting penalty.

Finally, Henderson turned match-winner, scoring at the second attempt after Vorm had blocked Suarez's shot. Incredible.

stsports@sph.com.sg

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