Crystal Palace 0-7 Liverpool
Selhurst Park, Premier League (14)
Saturday, December 19, 2020
Goals: Minamino 3′, Mane 35′, Firmino 44′ 67′, Henderson 51′, Salah 81′ 85′
Mane finds his finishing touch
A moody Sadio Mane exited the pitch just shy of the hour mark, but it wasn’t because he had a poor day or extended his scoring streak – the opposite in fact.
After nine games without a goal, Mane found the net against his favourite side. A seventh game in a row against Crystal Palace saw the No. 10 on the scoresheet, ending his longest run not scoring since joining the Reds.
He played well in general, causing problems down the right wing, making a few runs to open counters and scoring that crucial second goal when the Reds had really been under pressure.
Bobby back on fire
Goals in back-to-back games for Bobby for the first time since the Club World Cup exactly a year ago.
It’s unusual for a top No. 9 to go a full calendar year without such an occurrence, but then much of what Bobby does is unusual.
What’s unquestionable is that Firmino is back towards his top level; what’s less clear-cut is the most important reason why.
The Brazilian’s touch and link play was great, he has managed scorpion-kick-back-heel hybrid passes and knock-downs in back-to-back games and his first goal today was that of a player massively high in confidence, outside-of-the-boot, nonchalant and accurate.
Add in his involvement in the actual build-up to his first goal, his all-round movement, the quality of that second clipped finish and his big beaming smile and it’s fantastic to have him back having an impact.
As to why? It could be the rest of late he had. It could be the competition bringing his level up. It could be a mix of both, or just the self-confidence which comes from netting that last-minute winner against Spurs. Either way, this is the Bobby which makes us tick.
Away day joy
Palace definitely had chances earlier in the game but didn’t take them. Liverpool were utterly ruthless. All this is important for several reasons, beyond the obvious flow of the game-changing if they had netted.
The seven-nil rout means we effectively eradicate the nonsense goal difference effects caused by our one league loss of the season, the battering we took at Aston Villa, something Klopp even mentioned post-match.
It’s also just a second away win – the first for three months – of the campaign for the Reds. As a few questions were being asked of our form on the road, this should answer a fair few!
While Mane might have been a bit upset at missing the end of the goalfest, any Salah concerns being sub should be wiped away by him netting a brace and moving top of the league scoring charts in the process.
And it also gives the Reds the best goal difference in the league, the most goals scored in the league by an absolute mile… and the most points, obviously.
Top of the league at Christmas for the third year in a row!
Extremely good to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back, that’s for sure.
His first appearance of the season saw the midfielder get a 15-minute run-out, the big step back after another lengthy absence for Ox
Naby Keita, meanwhile, played the full 90 – a surprising occurrence given how the Reds restricted him to 50 and 60-minute outings earlier in the season as he built toward full fitness.
Perhaps with the week-long break ahead in mind, this gave him a big boost to the fitness levels and he coped well for the most part, showing good consistency in winning back the ball, aiding a high press in spells and bringing play out of our own defensive half.
A fine pass in the lead-up to Hendo’s goal was a reminder of his final-third quality, while he almost claimed an assist for a second Minamino goal, too.
Taki himself enjoyed 90 too, a return to the scoresheet and to the forward line after midfield run-outs, while Joel Matip appeared to have no ill-effects at the back after his muscle worries.
With Shaqiri, Milner and Thiago to come in to first-team training in the coming days and weeks, it’s suddenly looking extremely bright once again after the injury concerns of the past couple of months.
A huge break and catch us if you can
Eight days until our next game! Unheard of. The Reds don’t play Boxing Day, so it’s next Sunday that we face West Brom and Sam Allardyce’s latest revival attempt.
Plenty of time to eat a couple of mince pies, get some recovery work in and have a much sharper, more-rested squad to take to the Baggies.
Meanwhile, we’ve gone six points clear at the top after scoring seven times, firmly laying down the gauntlet to the pretenders to our throne, one of which is Spurs who drew with Palace only a week or two back.
Catch us if you can.