Crystal Palace 3-1 Liverpool
Premier League / Selhurst Park / Sunday, 23rd November 2014
Goals: Lambert (2); Gayle (17), Ledley (78), Jedinak (81)
By Henry Jackson
Liverpool returned to Premier League action, following the last of 2014’s painful international breaks, for the first time since the 2-1 loss to Chelsea at Anfield. Crystal Palace‘s Selhurst Park, the scene of last season’s three-goal capitulation, was the venue.
Brendan Rodgers made four changes to the side that lost to Jose Mourinho’s men two weeks ago. Javier Manquillo came in at right-back, with Glen Johnson replacing Alberto Moreno at left-back, while Joe Allen, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert also started.
The Reds’ season was in great need of a momentum boost, and the game got underway in front of a typically passionate south London crowd.
Liverpool got off to an absolutely perfect start, and it was a moment Lambert will never forget. The 32-year-old latched onto Adam Lallana‘s superb pass to calmly slot past Julian Speroni. It was his first goal for his boyhood club, after a frustrating first few months at Anfield.
Former Red Martin Kelly fired wildly over the crossbar, but it was the hosts’ only chance of note in the opening exchanges.
The scores were level after 16 minutes, however, as last season’s scourge Dwight Gayle fired home, after Yannick Bolasie’s effort had come back off the post. It was a very avoidable goal, not helped by the fact Allen had been receiving treatment for a head injury at the time.
There was a better balance about the Reds, despite lingering issues over the defence, and they had just been the better team in the first 25 minutes. Palace’s robust style was always a threat.
Lambert missed two decent chances with his head, and at the other end Bolasie forced Mignolet into a good save from range. The visitors were improving.
Steven Gerrard drilled an effort over from 30 yards out, while Manquillo produced a brilliant block to deny the electric Bolasie on the counter-attack.
At the end of an intriguing first-half, the scores were level at 1-1. It hadn’t been a bad performance by Liverpool, but improvements were still needed, especially at the back.
The second-half got underway, and there were no changes for either side at the break. Palace were the better of the two sides in the early minutes.
Martin Skrtel had a half-chance from an angle, but skewed it wide, while Gerrard’s shooting boots continued to evade him, as he failed to hit the target from distance.
With 30 minutes remaining the game was finely poised, but Liverpool weren’t really looking like heading back up north with all three points. Neil Warnock’s side definitely looked the more likely in that respect.
Manquillo horribly dragged a shot wide with 20 minutes remaining, as the Reds pushed for a winner. Palace looked ominous on the break, but the visitor’s were now on top. Rodgers tweaked his system slightly, and Fabio Borini and Can were introduced.
In the 78th minute, Liverpool were behind. Brilliant work from Bolasie led to Joe Ledley stroking the ball past Mignolet. Jedinak then curled a sublime free-kick into the top corner to make it 3-1, as a miserable afternoon for the Reds was complete.
Rodgers is now under real pressure, and will have serious questions to answer with regard to his side’s current form. A pitiful afternoon.
Man of the Match: Joe Allen
Rodgers went with a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Coutinho at the top of the midfield quartet and Gerrard at the base of it. Sterling started alongside Lambert in attack.
There was a slightly better balance to the side than of late, but he changed back to 4-2-3-1 at half-time and moved Sterling wide. Then took off the best player, Allen, leaving Gerrard on for the full 90 minutes – again.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Manquillo, Lovren, Skrtel, Johnson, Gerrard (c), Allen (Can 74), Lallana (Borini 71), Coutinho, Sterling, Lambert.
Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Moreno, Lucas, Markovic.
Crystal Palace starting XI: Speroni, Kelly, Delaney, Dann, Ward, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon, Chamakh, Gayle.