FULL TIME AT ANFIELD REVIEW: Reds win Six Goal Thriller away at Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace XI (4-2-3-1): Mandanda; Ward, Tomkins, Dann, Kelly; McArthur, Ledley; Lee, Cabaye, Zaha; Benteke.
Crystal Palace substitutes: Hennessey, Delaney, Flamini, Puncheon, Fryers, Townsend, Campbell.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Karius; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Lallana, Henderson, Can; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho.
Liverpool substitutes: Mignolet, Randall, Klavan, Lucas, Wijnaldum, Origi, Sturridge.
On paper, Liverpool would have had this game in the bag but Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace are usually in the business of taking out over-confident “big teams” by the knees; away from home in a tricky Selhurst Park there probably was no Red out there that didn’t recognize the potential ice-rink they were stepping into. Eitherways, a job was to be done and the rewards couldn’t be clearer for us – three points would get us on equal footing with current joint leaders Manchester City and Arsenal. Neither I nor, dare I assume, any Kop faithful would have ever considered using Crystal Palace to pad our goal difference, definitely not in Selhurst Park with Benteke aiming nail-guns at us, but our free scoring 4-3-3 made us hope for much.
A big improvement in our early possession stats, 80% for the first 15 minutes, had our boys plotting and planning while starving Palace of ball time and uncharacteristically, Pardew’s men welcomed the possession looking to capitalize on our mistakes. They must surely have not watched any of our tapes enough to realize how erroneous that was as in pure Liverpool fashion a sweet build-up culminated in the ever creative Coutinho chipping the ball over the Palace defence, accurately picking out Moreno on the left who, after skipping past a challenge from Zaha, sent a cut back in the path of Emre Can. The German had it all to do to evade his marker but he did and sent a well-struck low shot past Dann and Mandanda and into the back of the net. 1-0!
Apparently with the goal celebrations still fresh in the minds of our boys, we took our foot off the gas for one second, which in the EPL is enough for any team to get an effort in, and Crystal Palace took full advantage of Lovren’s slip-up when an awful attempted clearance from the defender under no pressure whatsoever sailed into the air and on to the head of McArthur, who easily got the header past the outstretched arms of Karius and into the back of the net to make it 1-1.
No time for self-depreciation, Lovren saw the opportunity to make amends three minutes later when Liverpool got a corner, Coutinho taking charge of the set-piece. Almost telepathic in reading Lovren’s intent, the Brazilian sent in the corner right to Lovren’s path and the defender, after making light the efforts of Dann to slow his ascent, got his head on the ball and the attempt past Mandanda to restore Liverpool’s lead. 2-1!
Chance after chance went by for us with the Reds even rattling the woodwork, but it was to be Crystal Palace that was to get the next goal after a rare foray into Liverpool’s final third, saw Zaha pick up the ball at the right wing, skipped past efforts to stop him before whipping in the cross right to McArthur who, rose higher than Lovren to get an unstoppable header in at the right corner to restore parity. 2-2. Has to be said that both Moreno and Lovren could have done better to stop the goal.
Seemingly rattled by that equalizer, Moreno nearly committed a howler to gift Palace a third goal the full-back getting caught in possession and failing to clear his lines, allowing Cabaye to pick up the ball and sending a chipped pass over to Zaha only for the linesman flag to come to our aid, the whistle stopping Zaha as soon as he made contact from an offside position.
That was to be the last of a nervy showing as the Reds picked up the pace, opting to launch themselves at Pardew’s men with the 10 minutes left in the first half. And with just a minute of normal time left in the half, Klopp’s men got the goal in after winning yet another corner from the right; Coutinho getting the set-piece in and finding Matip in acres of space for the free header, and it’s one that he sent flying past Mandanda with zero apology to get us ahead once again.
There was no rest for the Palace defence in the second half as ‘Jurgen’sJungen’ (I feel this just might become a thing) stepped up their authoritative play, dictating the pace while stifling any Palace attempts to spoil the party so early in the half.
Benteke had a huff-and-puff at Karius’ goal even what most Palace fans might see as a clear-cut penalty but it was to be the Reds to catch the fifth wind. Mane could have clenched the two-goal cushion for us after being released by one of several remarkable through-balls by Coutinho, but it was Firmino who made sure we got back to Merseyside with all three points, getting on the end of a defence splitting pass from Jordan Henderson to chip home a wonderful finish past Mandanda. It was merely an issue of dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s as our sub, Wijnaldum made sure there was no variation in consistency at the middle of the park, doing his bit to see out the final few minutes. Impressive winning mindset of this Liverpool side under Klopp as they did well to stop the leak and resume proceedings after letting two goals in to respond to the minor setback with quality and consistency to wrap up another three-point winning performance, this time at Selhurst Park.
MAN OF THE MATCH: PhillippeCoutinho – His performance should really win him Man of this EPL weekend. Such class, creativity, to consistently keep Pardew’s men on the back foot, his contributions clearly the difference today as he lifted his team to maximum points over a potential banana-skin of a match.