Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Liverpool 0-1 Crystal Palace: Talking points as Eagles ruin Reds title charge again

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Expected to give some kind of response after suffering a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Atalanta three days before, Liverpool hosted Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday as they aimed to salvage their position in the title race.

However, the home side put their supporters through another batch of frustration, with the visitors walking away with the whole prize as Eberechi Eze scored the only goal of the game in the 14th minute.

The game

Things started rather worryingly again for the Reds, as Palace threatened early on. Alisson Becker, freshly returned from injury, was forced to react to a dangerous cross from Tyrick Mitchell and save a rather feeble shot from Eberechi Eze. And just as it looked Jurgen Klopp’s team were starting to gain control over the proceedings, Mitchell broke down the left again and pulled a low cross back for Eze to fire home. It was mostly the positioning of Ibrahima Konate that Klopp will want to question regarding the conceded opener, after the French centre-back drifted out of position to open the space for Eze in the middle of the box.

It could’ve gotten much worse quickly for Liverpool, as a slip by Virgil van Dijk, so reminiscent of the infamous one by Steven Gerrard in 2014, allowed Jean-Philippe Mateta to pounce, rush goalwards and poke past Alisson, but Andy Robertson showed extreme determination and pace to slide in and kick it off the goal-line. Had he failed, the prospect of his team would’ve looked very black indeed.

As it happened, Liverpool got a bit more grip after that, but though they had two great chances when only luck and the reflexes of Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson prevented an equalizer, both with Luis Diaz as the main actor, a number of misplaced passes and misunderstandings between their attackers caused the scoreline to remain 0-1 at the break.

Apart from Konate, Wataru Endo was arguably the weakest link for Liverpool and it was no wonder than Klopp left the Japan international in the dressing room ahead of the second half, with Dominik Szoboszlai getting a chance to show what he can do. Only a minute later, an injury suffered by Conor Bradley forced a second change, and Trent Alexander-Arnold made his long-awaited return to action.

Liverpool gradually increased the pressure on the Palace defence during the second half, and they created three chances which fall into the category of “how has that not gone in”. Darwin Nunez’s powerful shot from close range was saved by Henderson, Curtis Jones had a one-on-one situation with the Palace goalkeeper and missed the target, and Mitchell put in a vital block to stop Mohamed Salah scoring from two yards. On the other hand, it should be said that Mateta had an equally glorious chance to settle the game in the favour of Oliver Glasners team with 15 minutes to spare, forcing a top-class save from Alisson.

The aftermath

Nonetheless, Palace booked incredibly important, and arguably just as unexpected three points to help them avoid being in the relegation scramble as the season draws to its close. Sitting 14th with a tally of 33, they now have an eight-point cushion between them and the danger zone, topped by Luton Town, and it’s extremely questionable if the Hatters have what it takes to make a serious attempt to cross that gap in the remaining five matches, particularly considering the fact that Palace have a game in hand.

But the supporters of the bottom teams aside, most of the football public will be looking towards the top of the table and voicing their views on the impact of this result on the Premier League title race.

Despite this defeat and Manchester City’s thumping of Luton on Saturday, Liverpool are only two points off the top spot, but the gap could increase to three by the end of the day if Arsenal beat Aston Villa at the Emirates. And let’s face it, it’s more than likely to happen.

Looking strictly at the respective tallies of the three contenders – City with 73, Arsenal 71 going into the Villa clash, and Liverpool 71 as well, nothing seems settled. However, from having the race completely in their hands a week ago, Liverpool have now gone to depending on both rivals dropping points between now and the end of the season – Arsenal twice (again, if they beat Villa), owing to their vastly superior goal-difference.

And as if that isn’t a black-enough prospect for the Merseysiders, going into the final stretch of Klopp’s last season at the club, their main problem at the moment is clearly the woeful performance levels they’ve been producing ever since the halftime break in the 2-2 draw away to Manchester United last week.

This simply isn’t shaping up to be the kind of farewell that the charismatic German tactician deserves from the club whose fortunes he had turned around completely after decades of nothing but disappointment and frustration. On the other hand, the result of this game was probably exactly what his men, some more than others, deserved for their afternoon’s work.

Liverpool’s Palace curse

Ten years ago, Liverpool lost significant ground in the Premier League title race when Steven Gerrard slipped against Chelsea, but their fate was sealed when they threw away a three-goal lead in the following round – against Crystal Palace. Palace were also the team that beat Liverpool in Gerrard’s final game at Anfield at the end of 2014/15.

Furthermore, Liverpool’s first home defeat under Klopp happened at the hands of Crystal Palace, back in 2015/16. Will the last one come from the same opponent?

At this point, Klopp will certainly be hoping so.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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