A Beautifully Ugly Win

Making a return after the international break, the Reds had to fight to get the three points. Here’s The Anfield Talk’s Alex (@Kirkham92) with his take on the game and the week ahead.

Felt good that didn’t it?

After an international break on the back of Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Watford, the international break felt that little bit longer, with two weeks of pointless friendlies spent hoping for no injuries on the horizon. Despite a slight knock to Andy Robertson and an ankle injury to Joe Gomez, Liverpool came out of the international break pretty unscathed, before heading to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace. Trent Alexander-Arnold came in at right back, whilst Joel Matip was given the nod to partner Virgil Van Dijk in the heart of the defence, whilst Liverpool old boys Mamadou Sakho, Martin Kelly and Christian Benteke lined up for Palace against their former employees. And it was Benteke Who played a role in the games first key moment, as he flicked on a long ball into the path of Wilfried Zaha, who beat the onrushing Lorius Karius to the ball, his chip dropping wide of the goal, but referee Neil Swarbrick had adjudged Karius had fouled Zaha, and Luka Milivojevic sent the German, who was booked due to his collision with Zaha, the wrong way from the penalty spot and Liverpool found themselves trailing after seventeen minutes.

Liverpool began to dominate proceedings, with Sadio Mane being booked for what was seen as simulation in the box, however replays showed James McArthur’s trailing leg had made contact with Mane, and Liverpool’s strong appeals was justified. Moments later Mane had the ball in the Palace net, as he glanced in Firmino’s header, but the Senegalese international was in a offside position. Apart from that Liverpool was restricted to long range efforts and went into the break with the feel of ‘one of those days’.

Liverpool started the second half on the front foot, and took them just four minutes to get back on level terms. James Milner’s low cross from the right found Mane, who put the ball beyond Wayne Hennessy. Liverpool continued to pile on the pressure, but the two best chances fell to Christian Benteke moments apart, but the Belgian blazed the ball high and wide on both occasions. Mane was then involved in another flashpoint in the game, as he felt he had been fouled on the edge of the box, he grabbed the ball expecting to hear the referees whistle, but no whistle was forthcoming and Liverpool’s goalscorer had been penalised for handball. With the crowd calling for Mane’s dismal, he escaped further punishment, with the resulting free kick forcing Karius to punch over the bar from Patrick Van Aanholt’s fierce free kick. Moments later Mane, along with Wijnaldum, where subbed off with Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replacing the pair. However Lallana’s afternoon was over not soon after, as he hobbled off with some discomfort in his hamstring following a challenge, and Dejan Lovren was on as Liverpool’s final substitute. Liverpool continued to push, with Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah both inches away from connecting with crosses on separate occasions.

But Liverpool’s pressure paid dividends with five minutes left. Andy Robertson’s low cross found Mohammed Salah, who took a touch and slotted the ball into the bottom corner to send the travelling Kop into raptures. Four minutes was added on as Liverpool was bombarded with long balls, but Liverpool held on, and gained a huge three points in their chase for a top four spot come May.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins as some have been in previous weeks, but it was a win, a huge, huge win. Liverpool found a way to win, when at half time a win didn’t look on the cards. This Liverpool side has a knack of finding ways to win football matches, one that they’ve not had for a very long time, and today was one of them wins that the top teams always seem to win, despite never playing well. But once again, it was Mo Salah who was Liverpool’s hero. The Egyptian’s thirty seventh goal of the season, it probably won’t make the top five, maybe even ten goals he’s scored this season, but in terms of importance this one was huge, especially the way he’d not had a sniff all afternoon, and still had the calmness to take a touch, steady himself and slot it with his right foot into the corner.

Focus now turns to a massive run of fixtures for Liverpool, two make or break Champions League ties against runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, with a Merseyside Derby at Goodison sandwiched in the middle next Saturday lunchtime. Liverpool will fancy their chances against Manchester City Wednesday, especially after their meeting in January at Anfield. And after comments made about the planned coach welcome outside Anfield, they could well of made Wednesdays Anfield atmosphere the best since Chelsea in 2005. It promises to be another special Anfield European Night.

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