The Reds returned from the international break to pick up three valuable points in the race to finish in the top four with a hard fought comeback win over Crystal Palace. The first half was an expectedly rusty affair with Palace taking the lead through a Luka Milivojević penalty. Liverpool bounced back in the second half with goals from Sadio Mané and Mo Salah to earn the narrow victory. It was a very eventful match but what did we learn from this well balanced encounter?
Despite falling behind early, the Reds at no point displayed any signs of panic relating to the situation they found themselves in. This is a sign of a team with genuine belief in their ability to win matches in whatever way is necessary. In the past, we have seen games like this where Philippe Coutinho would be looked at to pick the Palace lock, and would proceed to drill shot after shot into row Z in an effort to force a breakthrough. It bred frustration and anger from all supporters and players alike. The same aimless lack of direction was never evident today.
Roberto Firmino had a largely quiet game but he was always lurking in anticipation of what may come rather than going out of his way to create a sense of confusion and frustration. We sensed that he trusted that the opportunities would arise. The same can be said of Salah who miraculously still plays with essentially no ego. He bides his time and waits for chances to appear and one big one eventually did. Sadio Mané had quite a day for many reasons but he too stepped up and converted when presented a open look at the Palace goal.
Speaking of composure, the calming presence of James Milner and Jordan Henderson never fails to quietly impress. They are not always the flashiest duo but they are constantly seeking out subtle ways to raise the tempo and find a way through stubborn rearguards.
In particular, it was a moment of Milner magic which created the key equalizer by Mané right after halftime. This goal completely changed the outlook of the match. The midfield pair rarely get the plaudits they deserve but they were quietly instrumental in the outcome of yet another huge game.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is a phenomenal talent and it is often easy to forget that he is still just 19 years old. However, it was evident from the outset today that Palace had his channel highlighted as a key tactical breach point. Of course, Wilfried Zaha is a handful for even the best of fullbacks but it is safe to say that Trent still had a fairly miserable first half.
There were rumors swirling around the pre-match discussions that Mr. Dependable Nathaniel Clyne would make his long awaited return to the team but he instead had to settle for a place on the bench. The question now is what therefore does Jurgen Klopp intend to do at Anfield on Wednesday night against Manchester City? Can Clyne realistically be thrown in against Leroy Sane in his first game back in hottest of pressure cookers? Trent has demonstrated his ability to be a fast learner often in his young career and how he reacts to this ego bruising display will be key in determining Klopp’s plan of action for the Champions League.
I do not hide the fact that I am a massive Adam Lallana fan. He was arguably our best all around player last season and he was destined for another top class campaign this year. It doesn’t seem meant to be though at the moment as he lasted barely three minutes on the pitch today before the cruel blow of injury struck again
For a player that commits as much to the cause as Lallana it must be absolutely heart breaking for him not to be able to get fit at the moment. We can only hope that today’s withdrawal was more so precautionary than another serious set back. It is easy to forget what an asset he is to this team when fully fit.
The only objectives today that really mattered were to pick up three points and avoid any injuries before the Champions League quarter final this week. From that standpoint we can be fairly well satisfied with the outcome. As much as I love Lallana, he hasn’t been a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s plans this season due to the lack of fitness. Therefore, we are well braced now for three gargantuan fixtures in the space of about 7 days. Bring it on!