Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
Premier League (16), Selhurst Park
December 9, 2023
Goals: Mateta pen 57′; Salah 76′, Elliott 90+1′
Elliott takes another huge step
The fact that he scored a late winner makes Elliott an easy pick as one of Liverpool’s key men in this thrilling come-from-behind victory.
But the goal alone doesn’t do justice to just how influential the Englishman was following his introduction in the 74th minute.
He completed 100 percent of his 23 passes to get the Reds playing their best football of the 90 minutes around the Crystal Palace penalty box, constantly probing a previously solid back line.
And, as well as taking his goal brilliantly, Elliott also almost picked up an assist from a beautifully weighted pass in behind only for a marginal offside to deny Luis Diaz.
For all the talent around him, the 20-year-old has emerged as Klopp’s most effective substitute this season, and a key part of a squad that has designs on a Premier League title challenge.
Alisson value underlined
However, the Brazilian went on to fully justify his inclusion with two huge contributions to a hard-fought victory at Selhurst Park.
His early save from Jefferson Lerma is the sort that only he could pull off, and the reflexes required to keep out (a potentially offside) Joachim Andersen at the death were just as impressive.
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— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) December 9, 2023
If Liverpool are to keep pushing at the top of the table, they might want to start asking less from Alisson, but for now they should simply be thankful that they have the world’s best goalkeeper back between the sticks.
Referee and VAR deserve credit
We always point out when referees make mistakes and so it is only fair to be just as loud when the officials do their job well, as was the case today.
Yes, it perhaps took a little too long for a Crystal Palace opener to be ruled out for a shove on Wataru Endo, but Liverpool know better than anyone how speed can sometimes come at the cost of a correct decision.
Meanwhile, the Reds can have few complaints about the penalty awarded against Jarell Quansah, a call that no doubt would have been made quicker had the ball left play beforehand.
Andy Madley was also absolutely spot on for his decision to send off Jordan Ayew for a second bookable offence, with a previous yellow card no excuse for cynically hacking a player down on the counter.
Of course, many will forget to credit the referees after such a strong showing, but that does not feel fair given the stick they tend to get whenever things go wrong.
Quansah shows risk behind Klopp call
If Klopp’s press conference declarations regarding Liverpool’s transfer plans are to be believed, then they do not plan to sign a Joel Matip replacement in January.
Unfortunately, the potential folly of backing a teenager to fill the void of such an experienced campaign was underlined as he gave away a penalty with a clumsy challenge on Jean-Philippe Mateta.
To be fair to Quansah, he was largely flawless up to that point, but the demands of playing for Liverpool are such that even rare mistakes will invite criticism.
So, if today’s outing perhaps suggests the youngster isn’t yet ready to show the consistency required, then you wonder if the Reds might have to rethink their policy for the mid-season window.
Is context king again for Liverpool?
For all the joy over Liverpool going top thanks to another late show of strength, there will be some fans concerned about what we must admit was another off-colour performance.
But, as was the case after that midweek victory over Sheffield United, it is important to view this game in a context that perhaps explains why it was so tricky.
Firstly, Selhurst Park is never an easy place to go, and that is particularly true when Roy Hodgson has his troops fully fired up with the aim of ending a recent slump.
What’s more, a 12.30pm kickoff on the road after a Wednesday late game would not be allowed to happen had the latter fixture been in the Champions League, with broadcasters having acknowledged that fatigue tends to have a huge effect on the outcome.
That Liverpool came through all this in a period that the manager has described as “the most gruelling in world football” says everything about their mental strength and quality.
Yes, they will need to play better soon, but that they have got the points on board without doing so again says everything about this team’s potential.