Jonjo Shelvey plays a hand in all four goals as Liverpool draw 2-2 with Swansea at the Liberty Stadium
Just when Liverpool FC were starting to look to the future, along came a reminder from their recent past to help bring an end to their perfect start to the season.
Jonjo Shelvey may have been deemed surplus to requirements by Brendan Rodgers during the summer.
But, on the night the Anfield manager handed debuts to new signings Mamadou Sakho and Victor Moses, it was his former player who commanded centre stage on a crazy night as Liverpool were held to an enthralling 2-2 draw at Swansea City.
Shelvey, who joined the Welsh side for £5million, scored once and then contrived to gift Liverpool two goals before turning provider for his own team to quash the visitors’ hopes of a fourth successive Premier League victory.
Nevertheless, the point was enough to maintain Liverpool’s unbeaten record and send them back to the top of the embryonic table for the first time at this stage of a season since 2007.
This, though, was an unconvincing display from Rodgers’ side, their reshuffled defence living dangerously in the face of intense Swansea pressure.
Barely two minutes had gone when Shelvey shot Swansea into the lead, only for his slack backpass to almost instantly hand Daniel Sturridge the opportunity to score his 17th goal in 21 appearances for Liverpool.
Another Shelvey error then allowed Moses to thump home a debut goal nine minutes before the break, although the Swansea man atoned by teeing up Michu for the equaliser on 64 minutes.
Certainly, new £18million signing Sakho may have anticipated a less fraught initiation to Premier League football following his move from Paris Saint-Germain on transfer deadline day earlier this month.
But with Daniel Agger injured and the returning Kolo Toure benched, the France international was handed a starting role alongside Martin Skrtel at centre-back.
Unsurprisingly, Sakho experienced some nervy moments, but demonstrated enough to suggest he won’t be overawed by the physical challenge of English football.
He will also benefit from playing in a more settled backline. Andre Wisdom’s inclusion at right-back for the absent Glen Johnson meant Liverpool began last night without three of the back four that started the season.
At times it showed. But the new-look defence had barely time to become accustomed to each other when the game started with a crazy four-minute spell that encapsulated Shelvey’s yoyo Anfield career.
In the second minute, with Liverpool failing to properly clear their lines, the midfielder mishit his shot but regained possession to advance beyond Sakho and, after the ball again fell at his feet following Skrtel’s block, he curled a neat finish beyond Simon Mignolet.
Yet 99 seconds later, a mindless backpass from Shelvey was directed straight to Sturridge inside the area, the unmarked striker free to turn and shoot beyond the exposed Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Sturridge’s goal made him the only the fourth player in Liverpool’s history to score in each of the opening four games and the first to achieve such a feat since John Aldridge in 1987.
The frenetic start set the tone for an enthralling end-to-end first half. Mignolet did well to hold a shot from Wilfried Bony that deflected off Sakho, while Sturridge shot high and wide having been released down the inside left channel by Steven Gerrard, skippering Liverpool for the 400th time last night.
Moses gradually grew into the game, and midway through the half his break down the left ended with Jordan Henderson firing a shot blocked by Swansea left-back Ben Davies.
And two minutes later the Nigerian brilliantly danced his way down the left beyond Angel Rangel and Nathan Dyer before crossing for Sturridge who, less than six yards out, saw his header turned behind brilliantly by Vorm.
Moses showed his team-mate how it should be done on 36 minutes, although it was another nightmare for Shelvey whose ambitious square pass was intercepted by the Liverpool winger who advanced to the edge of the area and, with Chico Flores unwisely retreating, shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards. Vorm didn’t move.
Moses must like the Liberty Stadium, having scored his only Premier League goal for Chelsea here last season. He also netted for former club Crystal Palace on this ground.
Swansea, though, were not without their chances. Bony and Michu – forming a threatening partnership – combined well to cut through the Liverpool defence before the former’s shot was repelled by Mignolet, but the goalkeeper was indebted to Skrtel minutes before the break to keep the visitors ahead.
Mignolet found Dyer’s angled drive too hot to handle and, as Bony prepared to slide the ball into the empty net, Skrtel produced a fantastic sliding challenge to clear the danger.
The game was no less open after the interval. A deep Gerrard free-kick found Henderson at the far post, whose ball back across goal was eventually prodded towards then net by Wisdom only for a stretching Vorm to claim at the second attempt.
But Swansea were level in the 64th minute, with Shelvey inevitably involved. Racing from deep to meet Leon Britton’s long ball into the area, the midfielder flicked on for Michu to get in front of Wisdom and clip home into the bottom corner.
Swansea finished the stronger as Liverpool unwisely retreated, and Mignolet was required to turn behind a free-kick from Jonathan de Guzman.
But it required a tackle from Chico to deny substitute Iago Aspas earning Liverpool an unlikely win in the very last action of an absorbing encounter.
MAN OF THE MATCH. Victor Moses. A lively first outing for the Nigerian winger
SWANSEA CITY (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Chico, Davies; Britton, Shelvey; Dyer (de Guzman 46), Michu, Routledge; Bony (Pozuelo 66). Subs: Tremmel, Amat, Tiendalli, Canas, Vazquez. BOOKINGS: Williams (foul) and Shelvey (unsporting behaviour).
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Wisdom (Toure 69), Skrtel, Sakho, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard; Henderson, Coutinho (Aspas 55), Moses (Sterling 81); Sturridge. Subs: Jones, Alberto, Ibe, Kelly. BOOKING: Lucas (unsporting behaviour) and Henderson and Wisdom (both fouls).
REFEREE: Michael Oliver.