Liverpool returned to Premier League action and took the points, but were indebted to a magical performance from their No. 1 for ensuring they left with a win.
Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool
Premier League (22), Anfield
January 23, 2022
Goals: Van Dijk 8′, Oxlade-Chamberlain 32′, Fabinho pen 89′; Edouard 55′
Ox back with a banger
Team news didn’t cause too many raised eyebrows for once, with Jurgen Klopp pretty much going with those fit, in-form and available from the strongest senior options.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made a thankfully swift return after his injury and it’s a boost for him that the boss saw fit to throw him straight back in.
It’s somewhat less of a positive for Taki Minamino, of course.
Ox was, simply, very good in the first half.
He scored, sure, but he was also one of the Reds’ finest in shutting down their attempts to play out, being involved in our really good buildup play in the first 30 minutes and linked nicely with Trent and Hendo numerous times.
Being subbed first on the hour felt more of an attempt by Klopp to do something to spark the team back to life after a dreadful 25 minutes or so, rather than targetting Ox particularly.
Really well-taken goal, and arguably he was one of those least-responsible for the subsequent dropoff.
Turning the crowd
Palace’s home support is, by and large, pretty good – very noisy, very notably anti-whoever-they’re-playing, very proud of the fact they can beat decent sides at their place. And of that drum.
Liverpool shut it all down inside 10 minutes.
Within half an hour, Palace fans were berating their own players as much as the officials, as perceived injustices and sloppy passing out from the back meant they turned into anything but the fabled 12th man.
So why did the Reds step off entirely after that?!
Concentration, intent and execution were nothing short of woeful from 2-0 through to the hour mark, with Palace having about five great chances in that period.
As soon as they scored one it was a different game in terms of atmosphere and fragility.
We used to shut these scorelines down, lock and key, as soon as we went a couple up. That needs to return, pronto.
Awesome, amazing Alisson
Be very clear: the only reason Liverpool were winning and not losing after an hour is because of the man wearing the gloves.
His save from Mateta, one on one in the first half, was absolutely elite. Beyond world class. And the offside flag going up afterwards doesn’t change that, only the fact that if it had been Adrian in goal instead, it’d still have been 1-0 after a VAR review.
Another from Edouard was superb, then Mateta tried to round him and finish. Both were denied, as was his lunatic, lightning-reflex stop from a four-yard backheel.
Even Ali can’t stop a two-on-one every time though.
Man of the Match whatever might have happened later, but his tip around the post from an attempted lob was maybe the best of the lot.
Matip’s difficult day
There’s something about Selhurst Park that seems to affect Liverpool centre-backs from time to time.
Maybe it’s just coincidence, or maybe it’s just that Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel had nightmares pretty much everywhere across the course of their Anfield careers.
Today it was Joel Matip struggling with the concepts of space and time.
Particularly, the great big spaces behind him which their forwards kept running into, and the time it takes him to catch up with pacy wingers.
There was certainly more than just one person at fault for Edouard’s eventual goal, but an awful lot of Palace’s near-misses certainly originated down Matip’s channel.
Unfit or just a bad day? Either way, why Konate didn’t start or make an entrance is a question that needs answering.
Title still open…but no margin for error
OK so, a week or two after the crying and panicking from certain sections, there’s still life in our latest title bid.
We are coming from a position of weakness, to be sure, but the gap is now nine points and our game in hand is against Leeds.
It should, in normal circumstances, be a six-point gap.
Naturally, the game at City will be all-important. We don’t have a great record in matches against the top sides this season and that has to change in this particular fixture, but in the meantime consistency is everything.
On another day, we don’t win this today with the chances we gave up. A clinical touch at one end and an elite ‘keeper at the other has made the difference, and you absolutely take it when it’s on offer.
But don’t rely on it. Get back to consistently killing teams off earlier, maintaining rhythm during the game…and slowly, closing ground at the top.