Liverpool blew a three-goal lead to all but end their title dreams, on a dismal night at Selhurst Park.
Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool/ Premier League / Selhurst Park / Monday, 5th May 2014
Goals: Allen (18), Sturridge (53), Suarez (55); Delaney (79), Gayle (81 & 88)
Brendan Rodgers made one change from the side that lost 2-0 to Chelsea at Anfield, with Daniel Sturridge returning in place of Philippe Coutinho. Lucas Leiva kept his place in the Reds’ midfield, despite struggling against Jose Mourinho’s side.
Liverpool dominated the first-half from start to finish, creating numerous opportunities. The first of those came after seven minutes, as Mamadou Sakho headed wide when completely unmarked. He should have put the Reds ahead.
Seven minutes later and it was Glen Johnson’s turn to miss the target with his head, looping an effort just over after a superb pass from the lively Joe Allen. Daniel Sturridge, clearly far from 100 per cent fit, then saw a deflected effort drift just wide.
The visitors’ dominance eventually paid off, and it was Allen who broke the deadlock. The 24-year-old headed home Steven Gerrard’s corner after escaping the clutches of Joe Ledley, scoring his first Premier League goal for Liverpool in the process.
Luis Suarez curled a free-kick just wide on the half-hour mark, but Crystal Palace enjoyed a decent spell soon after. Simon Mignolet twice made fine saves, from Jason Puncheon and Mile Jedinak, as Liverpool were just in danger of sitting a little deep.
Rodgers’ men soon took control again, however, as Suarez and Allen both shot over, with the former also seeing his shot kept out by Julian Speroni in the Eagles’ goal.
Liverpool were deserving of their half-time lead, after a good response from the disappointment of losing to Chelsea eight days ago.
The Reds got off to a sensational start after the interval, with Sturridge’s deflected effort and Suarez’s ruthless finish after a flowing move making it 3-0 out of nothing. The SAS now have 62 league goals between them this season; astonishing.
Johnson tested Speroni with an excellent strike soon after, but although the match simply looked to be becoming a case of how many Liverpool would score to narrow their inferior goal difference to Manchester City, the game had a horrid twist.
Damian Delaney’s deflected effort, followed by Dwight Gayle’s fine finish made it 3-2, before Gayle got his second of the night to make it 3-3. It was the night the title dream died.
Man of the Match: Joe Allen
Rodgers again opted for the 4-4-2 diamond formation that he has used so much of late, with Gerrard anchoring the midfield, Allen and Lucas either side and Sterling playing behind the strikers.
The decision to select Lucas over Coutinho was most likely because of the physical prowess Palace have in their ranks. The 21-year-old can be too easily shaken off the ball, whereas his Brazilian compatriot is more accustomed to a physical battle.
The decision certainly wasn’t a bad one, despite the final outcome, even if Lucas was one of the Reds’ least effective players on the night.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Gerrard (c), Allen, Lucas, Sterling (Coutinho 78), Sturridge (Moses 86), Suarez.
Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Agger, Cissokho, Aspas
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi (Ince), Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon (Gayle 65), Chamakh (Murray 71).
Subs not used: Hennessey, Gabbidon, Parr, O’Keefe
Referee: Mark Clattenburg