Swansea City evidently do not regard £5m compensation as enough for Brendan Rodgers. They exacted a greater punishment at Anfield to relieve Liverpool of their hold on the League Cup with a display their former manager described as "bright, creative, sharp and with good intensity". It was said with an envious, resigned tone.
While Rodgers reflected on the obvious shortcomings in the Liverpool squad, one that cannot cope without Luis Suárez and Steven Gerrard for even 45 minutes, Swansea revelled in his misery and their own club's moment of history. A first victory at Anfield since 1964 secured the Swans' debut appearance in the quarter-finals, where they will entertain Middlesbrough, and gave Michael Laudrup a night to savour against the club he supported as a boy. "We don't need you any more," sang the impressive following who made the journey from south Wales.
"To beat Liverpool at Anfield and reach the quarter-finals for the first time in the club's history is a fantastic achievement," said Laudrup, who started with seven of the players that began against Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday. "The league is the most important thing, it is the daily bread, but I like the cups because it is pure competition. From the smaller club's point of view it is the shortest way to success. Our players won't play in a Champions League final or a World Cup final and this is the shortest way. We have to dream that it is possible."
The tie proved to be everything Rodgers must privately have feared from the moment the draw was made. Swansea troubled Liverpool on the counterattack throughout, had a clear plan and the means to follow it, with Miguel Michu outstanding in attack and the visitors composed in midfield. Liverpool only threatened when behind to goals from Chico Flores and Nathan Dyer, with Suárez glancing home a Gerrard free-kick to offer belated hope, but a third in stoppage time from Jonathan de Guzmán underlined the difference in penetration.
Liverpool had ambled during the first half with Joe Cole, Sebastián Coates and Stewart Downing wasting their opportunities to impress. Their tempo improved when Rodgers was forced to introduce Gerrard and Suárez at the interval but they did not convince all night. "The better team won," admitted Rodgers. "We were too slow in the first half. The introduction of Luis and Stevie changed things and we looked more like scoring after that but couldn't get the goal and got done with two breakaways."
Unlike Laudrup, Rodgers had rang the changes having played a near full-strength team against Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League three days before the Merseyside derby. Samed Yesil, a promising 18-year-old striker from Germany, started up front but was given little opportunity to make a mark by those around him. Liverpool's squad was shown to be painfully thin once more. Rodgers showed where Cole ranks in his affection, and the development required in Yesil, by withdrawing both at half-time. He had plenty of options for the hook.
"All you can do as a coach is to give players a chance to shine," the Liverpool manager lamented. "It is a thin squad but we can't keep playing Steven Gerrard and Luis Suárez. Joe Allen was virtually playing on his own in the first half in midfield with all due respect. This is where the club is at. I knew the size of the job here."
Liverpool were struggling from the moment Michu and Pablo Hernández instigated a dominant 10-minute spell in the first half that produced several chances, one missed badly by De Guzmán, before Flores beat Coates to a Dyer corner and sent an unstoppable header wide of Brad Jones in the Liverpool goal.
Gerrard struck a post from 25 yards, courtesy of a fingertip save from Gerhard Tremmel, and Downing miscued the rebound as it flew hard but straight at him. For all Liverpool's greater urgency, however, Swansea looked the more likely to add a second once they found their rhythm up front after the interval.
The visitors queued up to double their advantage when Hernández broke free on the left of the Liverpool area and forced a save from Jones at close range. The Australian international blocked the rebound, and another from Michu, before the forward teed up Dyer and Jamie Carragher blocked. Jones also saved well from Michu on the turn, Ashley Williams headed wide from the resulting corner and Dyer did apply the cushion of a second goal as Michu and Hernández led a devastating break. Hernández rolled the ball across Jones for Dyer to convert into an empty net.
De Guzmán made the game safe in stoppage time with an almost identical finish to Swansea's second goal. The outstanding Michu broke clear down the left and rolled the ball perfectly across the Liverpool goal for the midfielder to slide home.