Crystal Palace 2 – Liverpool 4: Match Review

It seems as though I’m talking about what’s happened in the past every week, recently. Before the Hull game it was about Liverpool struggling to break down teams that sit deep. Prior to United the conversation centred around the fact that even when we’re the better team we’ve lost games against them. The Reds have traditionally failed when up against sides managed by Tony Pulis, hence the West Brom match was a worry. When we won away at Selhurst Park last season it was the first time we’d done so in the league since 1997.

For some reason the Eagles always get themselves up for matches against us and this outing had all the hallmarks of a game we’d go on to lose. That our major rivals for the Premier League title in Arsenal and Manchester City had both won convincingly earlier in the day was another thing that pointed to the Reds losing, as we have done so many times before. That we took all three points yesterday was impressive enough, but to do so in the manner we did will have opposition fans and players seriously worried about what the Reds can do this season.

Mental Resilience The Order Of The Day

Of all the many impressive things that Jürgen Klopp has introduced to Liverpool since his arrival in October of last year, the mental resilience that he’s helped our players to develop is the most exciting. It could also go on to prove to be the most important, too.

I’m on record as being a massive fan of Brendan Rodgers. He not only got us playing the most exciting football I’ve witnessed as an adult but also took us closer to the title than any manager in the Premier League era. I do not believe in belittling his achievements and I think those that call him a ‘fraud’ or try to suggest his success was all down to Suarez are, frankly, idiots.

photofriday /

photofriday /

2013-2014 was an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan, with a swashbuckling ‘well score more than you’ attitude meaning that virtually every match was a laugh and full of fun. In the months that followed our failed title bid, however, the wheels fell off for the Ulsterman. Not only could we not seem to score but any time we suffered a set-back we had no idea how to recover. If we were 1-0 up with ten to play and the other team scored an equaliser then a loss was far more likely than a win. That is no longer the case.

From the opening day of the campaign when a 4-1 lead quickly drifted to 4-3 but we held on for all three points, the Reds have consistently shown that we have the mental fortitude to cope with the situation if it shifts against us. It’s fair to say that our defence has been found wanting a few too many times so far this season, yet two goal leads against both Chelsea and West Brom have still resulted in us collecting all three points when the opposition has scored a late goal. In the past you feel that wouldn’t have been the case, with hanging on to earn a draw seen as an achievement.

The Reds played some truly breath-taking attacking football in the first-half yesterday and when we took the lead it was the least we deserved. It was frustrating, therefore, to see Dejan Lovren have such a complete and utter brain fart to hand Palace such a simplistic equaliser when they hadn’t even been in the game before that. Full credit should go to the Croat, then, for bouncing straight back. Not only did we score from a corner – an occurrence so rare as to mean champagne corks could have been popping all over Liverpool – but it was the man himself who scored it.

From 1-0 to 1-1 to 2-1 in a matter of moments. Lots of teams would take the sting out of the game at that point. Having been rescued from throwing away a lead the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City might have opted to slow the game down and see the first-half out in as professional a manner as possible. Liverpool conceded a second equaliser through more sloppy defending, again involving Lovren. Ok, settle it down this time and get in level at half-time in order to sort ourselves out for the second-half, right? Wrong. Another corner, another header from a central defender, another goal. Mentally resilient Reds.

mooinblack /

mooinblack /

In the second-half Palace threw everything they could at us. It was clear that they would put us under pressure and that the vocal crowd combined with an energetic team and an exciting atmosphere under the floodlights meant that we asked questions. We had all of the answers and then some. Not only did we refuse to bend under the pressure but we kept calm, kept playing our football and scored a brilliant goal to win the match having scored four goals; the fifth time we’ve done that (or scored more) since Jürgen Klopp took over, more than any other side.

The Reds Mean Business

You might not think Liverpool are going to win this season. Fair enough. You’re wrong, but fair enough. You’re entitled to your own opinion even if it’s a stupid one. The one thing that can’t be argued with is that we’ll give it a bloody good go. Liverpool Football Club means business and we’ve got a manager who knows what it takes to win at the highest level. He may not have won the Premier League before but he’s done it in Germany when no-one expected him to and he’s reached the final of the Champions League – he knows what a winning team looks like.

The attacking football that we’re playing is genuinely brilliant. Teams don’t know what to do to control us and our front players are having the time of their lives. If it’s not Mané terrorising you then it’s Firmino. If Firmino is being dealt with then it’s Coutinho. If you somehow manage to control all three of them then Lallana will pop up and do something. Think you’ve got Lallana covered? Henderson can score a worldie or Emre Can will blast it past your ‘keeper before he knows what’s going on.

almonfoto /

almonfoto /

If Rodgers deserved credit for getting the most out of Luis Suarez then how much praise should be going Klopp’s way for the improvement of Henderson, Lallana, Firmino and – most of all – Coutinho? These players are developing at a rate of knots right now and it seems likely that they’re only going to get better. They’re reaching peak age and the manager is using them in exactly the right way to mean that they are arguably the best attacking unit in the Premier League right now. Leicester might have won the title through togetherness and determination, we’re going to do so by adding in excitement, too.

Perhaps the most exciting thing of all is that Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi haven’t even had to break a sweat so far in this campaign. If any of our current attacking unit start to go off the boil then there are some top-notch players ready to come in to replace them. Not only that but their style of play means that the manager can change the system he’s playing with if teams start to figure out our current set-up.

This Liverpool team is all about making a fool of convention. Matches that we ‘normally’ lose are being won. Teams that we ‘usually’ struggle against are being dispatched with ease. Klopp has given the players a mental strength that we’ve lacked in the past and we seem to have shaken off the pressure of our history in order to be able to take the game to our rivals. We’re going toe-to-toe with Arsenal and City, teams that have the added pressure of European competition to worry about. How far we can go remains to be seen, but we’ve been performing at a rate of 2.5 points per game since the Burnley loss. Do that for the remaining 28 games and we’ll finish the season with 93 points…

A Note About The Ref

I’ve been quick to criticise referees in the past so it’s only fair that I mention André Marriner after a reasonably good performance. I don’t have any idea how he managed to award Palace the free-kick that led to their equaliser when it appeared that, if anything, Firmino was being fouled. I’m also disappointed that he and his team missed the handball when Coutinho nearly scored with a header, but those of us watching it on TV didn’t notice until we saw the slow motion replay so perhaps even that was an understandable mistake.

The West Midlander was strong throughout the second-half in the face of some loud and vociferous calls for penalties from the Palace fans when their players went down rather easily under challenges from our players. He wasn’t easily swayed and, in my opinion, got pretty much every call in the second period spot on. I’m not Marriner’s biggest fan as a referee but credit where it’s due. Pardew may still be moaning about a decision he made last season (and got right, by the way) but the rest of us must acknowledge how good he was if we also want to reserve the right to have a go at refs when they get stuff wrong.

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