It was a case of two steps forward and one step back for Liverpool, who’s Champions League hopes took an almighty blow as Christian Benteke came back to haunt his old club.
After a lacklustre opening to the game, Philippe Coutinho put the hosts in front with a stunning long-range free kick to seal his 10th goal of the season. It should have been 2-0 when Roberto Firmino squared the ball to an unmarked Emre Can but the German failed to make any real contact with the ball.
Step up Dejan Lovren. Praised in recent weeks for displaying much more authority at the back, the Croatian was back to his old self, with Yohan Cabaye able to find space behind him all too easily. Producing an excellent ball across the face of goal, Benteke was on hand to level the scores.
Despite coming out swinging in the second half, it was the former-Liverpool man that had the last laugh. Andros Townsend swung in a dangerous corner that was flicked on by Jason Puncheon before Benteke prodded into the net. The goal was a defensive howler for Liverpool, with Emre Can among a number of players to be caught watching the ball, allowing Benteke to ghost in behind and secure a huge three points for Allardyce’s side.
The result means Liverpool will be reliant on rivals Manchester City to do a job on United on Thursday evening. Squandering a chance to establish some clear daylight between those around them, hopes of a top-four finish look set to go down to the wire.
Here are the player ratings following the 2-1 defeat.
Simon Mignolet – 6 – Didn’t really have much of a chance with Benteke’s goals and it was a pretty quiet performance in comparison to his recent heroics. Could have established more authority from set-pieces, which Liverpool struggled to contend with all day.
Nathaniel Clyne – 5 – Got himself in some very promising positions, but once again failed to make them count. Apart from a good ball to free Roberto Firmino out wide, it was another frustrating performance from the right-back, with Alexander-Arnold arguably creating as many chances coming off the bench as Clyne did the whole game.
James Milner – 5 – Not a good day at the office for a usually reliable figure, indicating just how bad Liverpool were against Palace. Failed to provide any real width down the left flank, making it all the more hard to stretch the Palace back line.
Joel Matip – 5 – Among a number of players to be caught napping from the corner as Benteke notched his second goal. Bullied all afternoon by the former-Liverpool striker.
Dejan Lovren – 4 – Where do I begin? It was a very poor afternoon for Lovren, with inaccurate and misplaced balls in the early stages indicative of his performance. Receiving praise for his performance alongside Matip against West Brom, it was role reversal here.
Emre Can – 5 – Fluffed his lines after Roberto Firmino set him up for a great chance to make it 2-1 to Liverpool. Struggled to create anything for those in front of him and wasn’t as influential as he has been in recent weeks.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6 – Controlled possession well when he was on the ball, and produced a few bright turns in the opening half an hour to set Liverpool on the front foot. Worked hard but failed to create any telling chances for the home side and faded as the game wore on.
Philippe Coutinho – 7 – The only bright spark at Anfield for the boys in red. Despite a below par performance in the opening exchanges, he produced a real moment of quality, curling in a beautiful free-kick from 25 yards out. Was Liverpool’s biggest threat throughout and but for too much honesty in staying on his feet inside the area despite contact, he could have brought the points home for Klopp.
Roberto Firmino – 5 – Very poor compared to what we usually see from the Brazilian. Worked hard, to his credit, but didn’t get many sights of goal. Failed to clear his lines for Palace’s second.
Divock Origi – 4 – His decision making was more than questionable throughout the match and he struggled to stand up against a resolute and bullish Palace defence. Missed a great chance from Coutinho’s cross.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 5 – Didn’t have much chance to impact the game but slotted well into the midfield as Liverpool changed to a back three.
Alberto Moreno – 5 – Didn’t miss any open goals unlike last weekend and set up Coutinho for a chance of which the Brazilian failed to utilise.
Marko Grujic – 5 – The last throw of the dice from Jurgen Klopp with five minutes left of normal time. Displayed a poor touch, but that was to be expected after such a long period on the sidelines.