Title within reach as Reds rip Palace
Liverpool roared to within touching distance of their 19th league title with a thumping 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Anfield.
A performance of intensity and control yielded goals from Trent Alexander Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Fabinho and Sadio Mané and put the Reds within two points of the title, although a Chelsea win over Manchester City tomorrow night would confirm it earlier.
Salah and Robertson came into the team after the missing the dour Merseyside derby draw at Everton and it was clear from the get-go that the intensity was upped several notches from Goodison Park.
The Reds started brightly, looking much sharper and clearly benefitting from the tune-up that was the Everton game. Mané and Salah, in particular, looked bright; each creating opportunities that Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson should have done better from.
Enjoying an excellent opening 15, Mané displayed the strength of a target man and the craft of a playmaker — chesting down a Virgil van Dijk pass before a deftly backheel into the path of Firmino. The Brazilians effort was easily saved by Wayne Hennessy but the hosts continued to turn the screw.
Palace’s resolve — after 21 minutes of ceaseless red clad pressure — was broken when Alexander-Arnold beautifully curled home a 25 yard free kick. Jordan Ayew needlessly fouled van Dijk from a second phase corner and — from the resultant free — the academy graduate punished the indiscretion with aplomb, leaving Hennessy no chance as the ball found the right corner.
Another goal almost followed straight after. Robertson’s free-kick was headed away only to find Jordan Henderson, whose edge of the box volley hit the left hand post.
Wave after wave of Liverpool pressure was applied on the visitors goal and they should’ve been awarded a penalty when Gary Cahill clearly handled a Firmino flick in the box. Another chance arrived not long after but Wijnaldum — for the second time in the left hand channel of the box — screwed an effort wide after being supplied by Mané.
The second goal arrived in the 44th minute and it was beautifully crafted. Fabinho, spotting Salah’s arching run past Patrick Van Aanholt, clipped a dinked through ball into the Egyptians path. A cushioned first touch allowed him to bide his time before confidently clipping the ball over Hennessy for a 2-0 half time lead.
The second period almost began as the first ended, with Salah almost turning home a devilish Henderson cross.
Their tails up, Liverpool continued to press and they bagged their third ten minutes after the interval. Fabinho, arguably the best player on the pitch, collected a pass from Wijnaldum and smashed a 25 yard strike past Hennessy for a goal reminiscent of his brilliant strike against Manchester City earlier in the season.
Three ought to have become four but Wijnaldum — again from the Mané supply line — snatched at a great chance in the box, his third such miss of the evening.
A fourth goal arrived 20 minutes from time in typically quick and incisive fashion. Countering quickly, Firmino fed Salah, the number 11 audaciously curled a pass — with the outside of his weaker, right foot — into the path of Mané. The Senegal international, bearing down on goal, graciously caressed a low shot into the bottom right corner.
With the win in the bag, the Reds emptied their bench — bringing on Takumi Minamino, Naby Keita, Harvey Elliott, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Neco Williams — and the saw the game out comfortably,