Liverpool entered the game against Crystal Palace without a win in three games, a sight unseen throughout the whole of last season for the LFC faithful. The longest run without earning a point last season was when Liverpool were edged 2-1 by both Manchester City and Chelsea in back-to-back matches, but with the Reds now falling to three defeats on the bounce and just one point from their last four matches it is fair to assume that Brendan Rodgers must be feeling a little hot under the collar.
Rodgers made four changes to the starting line-up that lost to Chelsea in the previous match; new recruits Emre Can and Alberto Moreno drop to the bench, whilst Henderson and Mario Balotelli drop out with injuries picked up on international duty. Manquillo, Lallana, Allen and Lambert slot in. Ricky Lambert makes only his second league start for Liverpool since joining from Southampton in the summer and was given the job of filling Balotelli’s shoes, which so far seem like they do not fit.
The team would be forgiven for feeling a bit of deja-vu in the air upon arriving at Selhurst Park; entering this fixture on the back of a Chelsea loss like they did towards the end of last season, before going on to make a costly slip-up against the Eagles. This is the venue that many believe Liverpool’s dreams of a Premier League title came to an end.
Liverpool started the game off in a calm, controlled fashion looking to keep the ball. It took the Reds only a minute and a half to find the back of the net, with Adam Lallana cutting open the defence with an incisive pass to find Lambert, who calmly stroked the ball past a struggling Speroni into the bottom corner. This was Lallana’s first league assist for his new club since his big money move from Saints in the summer, which has surprisingly taken 7 appearances to materialise. Lambert already beating Mario Balotelli’s current league goal tally.
This goal seemed seemed to spur Palace into life, creating chances and eventually finding the back of the net in the 16th minute. Dwight Gayle the man, following up a Yannick Bolasie pile-driver that struck the post, knocking the re-bound past under-fire Simon Mignolet. Gayle is enjoying a great run against Liverpool with 4 goals in 3 matches.
Yannick Bolasie continued to terrorise the dog-eared Liverpool full-backs all afternoon, with Manquillo and make-shift left-back Glen Johnson struggling to find a way to handle the Congolese international. Glen Johnson looked incredibly unconvincing from the word go, putting the decision by Rodgers to drop purpose-bought left-back Alberto Moreno into disrepute. More hard work by Bolasie led to Palace going in front on 75 minutes, with a terrific piece of skill to get past Lovren who really should have done better; taking the ball onto his thigh and foot before flicking it over the trailing Croatian’s head. The Palace no.7 proceeded to deliver a weighted pull-back into the box for oncoming Joe Ledley who gratefully tucked the ball away through Mignolet’s legs.
Liverpool responded to going behind in an energetic yet desperate manner, with Raheem Sterling going down in the box just five minutes after Ledley’s goal but to no avail. Raheem Sterling had a quiet game by his standards, failing to muster up many chances on Speroni’s goal and remaining within former team-mate Martin Kelly’s pocket for most of the match. Crystal Palace did well to deal with Liverpool’s possession throughout the match, looking comfortable enough to let Liverpool do so before counter attacking when they got possession- a tactic that is reflected by the statistics below, in successful fashion.
There was time for a Mile Jedinak special 10 minutes from time to secure a much needed 3 points for a team that had lost 4 of their last 5 league matches. Jedinak driving a free-kick, that was won by the nuisance Dwight Gayle, over the wall and into the top corner; much to the despise of a wet, Belgian shot-stopper who had an afternoon that he’ll want to forget . The Crystal Palace captain is enjoying a fruitful campaign thus far, managing to net 5 times in his last 15 league appearances.
Neil Warnock could not contain his delight at his team’s performance after the game, going on to say that they “could have gone on to score more goals”, despite having only 36% possession. The post-match interview from Brendan Rodgers involved much less smiling; the dejected Reds manager claiming full responsibility for his side’s poor performance, but stating that the only way he sees his team improving is through “working harder” in training. The Liverpool boss could draw a little encouragement from seeing Ricky Lambert open his league account, with goals coming few and far between up front with star man Daniel Sturridge’s time on the sideline ever-increasing.
Liverpool now go into a must-win Champions League match against Ludogorets to stand any chance of progressing into the knock-out stages of the competition, but with some fans already beginning to point the finger in Rodgers’ direction, could a loss in Bulgaria act as the first nail in the coffin? There has been an expenditure of over £213m over the past two years at Anfield, and the Champions’ League knock-outs would be little more than the board would surely expect for their efforts.