Liverpool won at Palace one via a brace of scrappy goals and that warm glow of relentlessness yet again, writes Steven Scragg.
I don’t know what it is about Crystal Palace that provokes such incredulousness from a Liverpool supporting perspective.
Far too regularly when we play them away from Anfield there tends to be one bewildering flashpoint or another, while it seems to be part of the terms and conditions that there will be incidents or talking points that sear themselves upon the memory, for aeons to come.
It all stems back to that mad 1990 FA Cup semi-final defeat to them, an event that came seven months after we had beaten them 9-0 in the league at Anfield. While in more contemporary times, we can point to the insanity of that 3-3 draw towards the end of the 2013/14 season.
These haven’t been standalone traumas, simply the most high-profile ones. There have been many other dark days against the Eagles that we can easily add to the blacklist.
All too often, mistrust and foreboding have been the predominant feelings when trips to Selhurst Park have loomed upon the horizon over the course of the last three decades.
Don’t underestimate just how big of a plus it is to get this fixture out of the way and to swipe it aside with a victory.
It’s a Shame About Roy
Obviously, when it comes to the current version of Palace, it always comes down to Roy Hodgson.
Prior to the game, in the Independent, Tony Evans wrote what was interpreted as an explosive character assassination of Hodgson.
For me, it was one of those instances where the shadow of an article makes its presence known before I got a chance to read it. A perceived mistimed pop at the former England manager; the type of thing Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley would have posted on the dressing room wall before kick-off, in a bid to motivate his players.
After the game, Hodgson declared that it had been Palace’s best performance of the season so far. Maybe he did pin Evans’ article on the dressing room wall?
By the time I read Evans’ piece, a few hours after the full-time whistle had been blown, I found it to be less combustible as the Twitter row the author was involved in suggested it should be. It was a mixture of home truths, blunt honesty and irritability.
Fast approaching nine years since Hodgson’s ill-fated union with Liverpool ended, I felt it was an argument that wasn’t all that necessary. We aren’t a version of Liverpool now that shares many, if any, similarities with the Liverpool of the winter months of 2010.
Hodgson is the eternal peculiarity who defies footballing gravity.
In a league where Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola set all the benchmarks; in a week where Mauricio Pochettino was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur and the likes of the returning Jose Mourinho and the unemployed Arsene Wenger are considered to be the men of yesterday, while previously lauded continental thinkers such as Unai Emery and Marco Silva appear to live on borrowed time, it confounds belief that Hodgson continues to tread water in the manner he does.
Despite this, Hodgson remains an intermittent splinter in the sole of the foot of other managers.
Last season, Hodgson’s Palace won away to both Manchester City and Arsenal, while they came to Anfield and pushed us to a narrow and high-scoring 4-3. In the early exchanges of this season, they went to Old Trafford and came away with all three points. We’ll be mutely half hoping he can take points off the teams directly behind us.
What Hodgson has perfected, is longevity through repetition. He runs endless drills and hypothetical scenarios on his players in training, grafting this ethos onto the current day physicality and speed of the footballers under his tutelage, the latter ingredient being completely out of his control. For instance, Hodgson has no real say in the way that Wilfred Zaha instinctively plays.
On Saturday, Zaha equalised once and passed on the opportunity to equalise a second time. He is a player that would thrive under Klopp; he is a player who has spent too much of his career under the guidance of ‘meat and potato’ managers.
Beyond Hodgson, Zaha has been dealt the managerial stylings of Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock and Sam Allardyce. Even when he reached the projected promised land of Manchester United, he was lumbered with David Moyes.
At Selhurst Park, our old friend VAR was again in attendance. As much as Liverpool and VAR’s detractors wanted to righteously bemoan Palace’s disallowed goal, a push is a push. Of course, it didn’t stop some losing their composure and intelligence, while to his credit Hodgson himself confessed to having no arguments with the decision.
We won this one via a brace of scrappy goals and that warm glow of relentlessness yet again. It’s OK to have days like these. League title-winning campaigns are as much built upon these type of days as they are built upon aesthetically pleasing 5-0 drubbings.
Selhurst Park is out of the way now. This must be viewed as a huge plus in our bid to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our last league title-winning vintage, with our latest league title-winning vintage.
Three Anfield appointments are now ahead of us, before we hit the road again. Napoli in the Champions League followed by Brighton and Hove Albion and Everton in the league.
The smart money is on that being an Everton which is under new management. Meat and potato management at that.