Kicking off on Monday night, Liverpool were looking up at their rivals in the early season Premier League table. A win was needed to keep pace with Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City, who set out a marker with a 6-1 victory on Sunday.
It was obvious early on that this wasn’t going to be a highlight reel match. Palace weren’t in the mood for a cake walk. Their physicality and speed were an interesting match for the Reds, but ultimately a select few would push Liverpool over the top.
One of the difference makers was Naby Keita, who dictated action early and often for the Reds. A nearly completed touchdown pass, rainbowed in over Salah’s head, should have opened the scoring but the Egyptian’s final chip was too strong.
The battle continued until Liverpool created several chances as halftime neared. In the 44th minute, Salah spun out of a Sakho embrace to receive the ball in Palace’s box, but their feet tangled and Mo appealed for a penalty from the Palace turf. It’s a sequence that didn’t happen under Klopp in season’s past.
Milner slotted home for a 1-0 lead on the brink of halftime. Crystal Palace supporters and players were fuming, but if Liverpool are going to bring home silverware this year it won’t be as every fan’s second team. If we learned anything from Kiev it’s that we might have to upset a few here and there if titles are going to come.
This was an absolute battle of a half. Liverpool’s brightest didn’t look dialled in, and Mo Salah grabbed an opportunity with both hands, delivering a brutal blow to Palace as they retreated to the changing rooms at the break.
Liverpool supporters were wondering if this would be the match where our massive goalkeeper acquisition would be tested, and early in the second half he was called into action. Probably the best passer of the match, Alisson made two very good saves in a short span, one from a free kick on his left and one from a shot to his right. The degree of difficulty is increasing for the Brazilian, but he looks to be growing into the role. His outlet passes sprung Liverpool breaks all night long although the back five didn’t seem as comfortable finding each-other under pressure as they were against West Ham.
Salah’s 75th-minute sprint, forcing fantasy darling, Wan-Bissaka to sweep the leg might have clinched the match for Liverpool. But he certainly killed the game off in the 93rd when he flew up the field with Mané matching his every stride. Mo laid the ball off and Mané did the rest, stepping through would-be tacklers like an NFL running back and finishing past a prone Hennessey.
This was not a breeze, but Palace looked much improved. They didn’t just rely on a boisterous crowd on this night, showing real skill that the Reds should be proud to have kept in check.
Two matches. Two clean sheets. On to the next.