Liverpool went back up to 2nd place in the Premier League, for the time being, with a massive 2-1 victory over Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday. Goals from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah (of course) overturned the 1-0 lead that Palace had established from a Luka Milivojevic penalty in the first half.
It’s been a long two weeks since that 5-0 drubbing of Watford at Anfield. International breaks are never fun for any football fan really but at least we went into it off the back of one of the most enjoyable games of the season. The downside being that Joe Gomez got injured in the process and is now out for a month. The return of Nathaniel Clyne to the squad today couldn’t have come at a better time. Trent Alexander-Arnold was chosen however to try and keep Palace danger man Wilfried Zaha in check. It was him alongside Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson in the backline. The midfield three was Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and James Milner and the front three need no introduction from me.
There were some early warning signs for the Reds as Zaha managed to evade Trent before being released with a ball over the top. His shot was saved well by Loris Karius but there were signs that the young right back would have a tough day trying to deal with Zaha.
This worrying start was compounded when, in the 12th minute, another ball over the top was flicked on by Christian Benteke into the feet of Zaha who prods the ball beyond Karius before being completely taken out by the German goalkeeper. Referee Neil Swarbrick correctly awarded the penalty which was converted easily by Milivojevic. 1-0 down and plenty of work to do to get back into the game.
It didn’t look like it was going to happen, at least in the first half. Liverpool had a few chances but, apart from Mane having his goal disallowed for offside, there was nothing to suggest that Liverpool were going to even draw this game, let alone come back and win it. Chances from Salah and Roberto Firmino were easily saved by Wayne Hennessey in goal. Mane could have also had a penalty but the way he went down and the lateness of it meant that Swarbrick saw it the other way and booked the Senegalese player for diving.
Jurgen Klopp must have said something in the half time team talk that got through to his players as they came back out for the second half looking like a different team altogether. This was shown when, only four minutes after half time, James Milner picked up the ball on the left side of the pitch and drilled a low cross into the waiting form of Sadio Mane who only had to touch the ball towards goal and level the score. It was the winger’s 9th Premier League goal of the season and 15th of the campaign overall. Below par? I don’t recall ever saying that…heh.
There was another 5 minutes of domination for Liverpool after the equaliser but all of a sudden we seemed to drop sticks and allow Palace back into the game. A poor pass from Milner lead to Benteke going through one of one with the keeper but the Belgian’s annoyingly good scoring record against the Reds was not to continue as he spooned his shot wide.
He was then gifted another glorious opportunity about a minute late that he then blazed over the crossbar. Two instances of poor defending and attacking alike which Liverpool only just escaped from unscathed.
It could have gotten even worse for Liverpool as Mane, annoyed at not being awarded a free kick, picked up the ball and should really have been sent off for a second bookable offence. Neil Swarbrick was merciful this time however and Sadio was substituted minutes later for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, probably to a sigh of relief from Klopp and all Liverpool fans.
Adam Lallana, who came on for a poor Gini Wijnaldum at the same time as Chamberlain, lasted only 3 minutes before going down injured. It looked a bad one. The stretcher was brought on but the English midfielder was able to walk off on his own but Klopp described his situation post match as “not good” so it’ll have to be a wait to see how long he is out for this time. Dejan Lovren was the player chosen to replace him with the Reds going 3 at the back. Not getting a replacement for Phillipe Coutinho in January is still looking like the wrong decision.
It was looking to be one of those days that we’d just have to settle for the point and go again next weekend. But when you have a genuinely world class player in your team you can never truly predict the outcome. Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up the ball on the right side before beautifully finding Robertson on the opposite side of the box. The brilliant Scottish left back then played a good low ball into the danger area where resident goalscoring expert Mo Salah picked it up, turned ex-Red Mamadou Sakho and finished past Hennessey into the Palace net.
Jubilation from the away fans as Salah leapt into the air with joy, the relief of all Liverpool players and fans palpable! The team managed to then close the game out with relatively few scares and secure a massive win at a ground where we have undoubtedly struggled in the past. Now we can watch the Chelsea/Spurs game tomorrow with interest rather than trepidation. A draw would be wonderful Antonio/Mauricio, cheers! Now we return to Anfield on Wednesday for the first leg of the huge Champions League quarter final tie against Manchester City. Allez allez allez!