A goal either side of half-time from old boy Christian Benteke saw Liverpool fall to a 2-1 defeat away to Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon.
Liverpool 1-2 Crystal Palace
Premier League, Anfield
April 23, 2017
As we reach the business end of the season, every point is crucial for Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool, as they strive for their first top-four finish in three seasons.
Unbeaten in seven, and having won five of those, the Reds found themselves in excellent form heading into the weekend, with their latest challengers a resurgent Crystal Palace.
The Eagles were without one of the players central to their mid-season turnaround, with Mamadou Sakho ineligible against his parent club, but Klopp himself was without a clutch of his key names.
With Palace fighting against relegation and Liverpool battling for the Champions League, there was a lot to play for at Anfield, but the home side faltered.
- 17-year-old striker Brewster named on substitutes’ bench
- Coutinho fires beautiful free-kick home for opener
- Ex-Reds striker Benteke levels before half-time
- Belgian nets second after Liverpool defensive mixup
- Reds’ seven-game unbeaten run ends in dismal fashion
It was a slow start at Anfield, with Palace sitting deep and Luka Milivojevic in impressive form, and Philippe Coutinho was reduced to a series of long shots as he attempted to test Wayne Hennessey.
The Brazilian broke the deadlock from a set-piece before the half-hour mark, however, firing a sensational free-kick into the top corner from 30 yards to give the Reds the lead.
This opened the game up, with Coutinho serving as playmaker as Liverpool continued to push forward in search of a second.
At the other end, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren initially coped well with the physical presence of Benteke, as Palace opted to go route one in hope of restoring parity.
With Georginio Wijnaldum wriggling free to find space to drive into the box on the left, Emre Can was given an ideal opportunity to net his fifth goal of the season, but he sidefooted away from goal.
This proved to be a chance squandered as Palace went up the other end to level, with Yohan Cabaye’s cross hammered home by Benteke to end the half at 1-1.
Coutinho continued his inspired performance after the break, and the 24-year-old could have won the Reds a penalty after being dragged back when dancing through the Palace defence to the six-yard box.
His compatriots Lucas Leiva and Roberto Firmino combined for a fine opportunity just before the hour, but the midfielder’s excellent through ball was snuffed out by Hennessey.
However, as the Reds ploughed forward, Palace were able to threaten on the counter, and a dismal attempted tackle from Lovren handed the away side a corner as James Milner tracked back to deny Andros Townsend.
That set-piece, drilled into the Liverpool penalty area, evaded every red shirt in the box, with Benteke there to head the Eagles in front with his second of the afternoon.
Klopp made three desperate changes in the closing stages, sending on Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alberto Moreno and Marko Grujic, but it was too little, too late at Anfield.
TIA Man of the Match: Philippe Coutinho
Referee: Andre Marriner
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne (Grujic 84′), Matip, Lovren (Alexander-Arnold 78′), Milner (Moreno 82′); Lucas, Can, Wijnaldum; Firmino, Coutinho, Origi
Subs not used: Karius, Gomez, Brewster, Woodburn
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Ward, Tomkins, Kelly, Schlupp; Milivojevic, Cabaye (Delaney 82′); Zaha (Van Aanholt 77′), Puncheon, Townsend; Benteke (Campbell 88′)
Subs not used: Speroni, McArthur, Flamini, Sako
Next match: Watford (A) – Premier League – May 1