Premier League Postmortem: Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Liverpool

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Frustrating Watch for Reds

This was a painful game to watch, which was very predictable, given the dreaded 12.30 lunchtime kick off and hectic ongoing fixture schedule. Make no mistake, all that matters at this stage is winning results, with performances often sporadic against uninspired teams and opposition managers. With constant rotation and asset fatigue comes periods of concern, which has caused multiple surprise results to Liverpool’s direct rivals of late, especially since the last international break. I was hopeful that Curtis Jones would be drafted in for this game, yet that was not to be the case. The team made sense, especially given the efforts against Sheffield United in the week.

Below is how the team lined up, with match details following.

The Starting Eleven

  • Alisson Becker
  • Trent Alexander Arnold
  • Virgil van Dijk (c)
  • Jarell Quansah
  • Kostas Tsimikas
  • Ryan Gravenberch
  • Dominik Szoboszlai
  • Wataru Endō
  • Mohamed Salah
  • Luis Díaz
  • Darwin Núñez

Subs

  • Joe Gomez – Wataru Endō (45 mins)
  • Ibrahima Konaté – Jarell Quansah (57 mins)
  • Cody Gakpo – Ryan Gravenberch (57 mins)
  • Curtis Jones – Dominik Szoboszlai (74 mins)
  • Harvey Elliott – Darwin Núñez (74 mins)

Goals

  • Crystal Palace 1 – 0 Liverpool: Jean-Philippe Mateta (Penalty) 57 mins
  • Crystal Palace 1 – 1 Liverpool: Mohamed Salah (Curtis Jones) 76 mins
  • Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Liverpool: Harvey Elliott (Mohamed Salah) 90+1 mins

Red Card

  • Jordan Ayew (2 yellow cards) 75 mins

Important Match Stats

  • Possession: Crystal Palace 24% – 76% Liverpool
  • Total Shots: Crystal Palace 7 – 14 Liverpool
  • Total Crosses: Crystal Palace 18 – 19 Liverpool
  • Counter Attacks: Crystal Palace 5 – 7 Liverpool

The First Half

The opening period of this game saw Liverpool slowly attain possession against a side that was clearly set on digging in, to frustrate and prevent any free-flowing football. When the team with more possession and more quality fails to score early, the low block opposition is often able to bed in and bide their time. The fact that Michael Olise did not start this game showed that his Crystal Palace manager, Roy Hodgson, was betting on stubborn resistance over an attacking enterprise. The inevitable counter attack did not take long to materialise, which brought a wonderful save from the Liverpool keeper, Alisson Becker. The early return from injury (by the Brazilian stopper) was the best news possible, after his understudy, Caoimhin Kelleher, had endured an inconsistent spell in the interim.

The very organised and dogmatic approach from the south London team, meant that rhythm was almost non-existent (from their visitors), as the visiting team became increasingly predictable in their patterns of play. With the Selhurst Park side fielding a rigid five-man midfield in front of a flat back four, ingenuity was what was needed, yet the traveling players on show could not muster much more than a tired whimper. Midway through the initial half, the Eagles thought they had won a penalty, as Virgil van Dijk clattered into an opponent in the box. Luckily for the 2nd placed team, Wataru Endō had been fouled moments earlier, which was clarified only after the referee watched the replay a ridiculous number of times. The half petered out and the stale first 45 minutes ended all square.

The Second Half

On resumption of the second half, Joe Gomez appeared in place of the largely ineffective Wataru Endō. To have a specialist defensive midfielder in the first half was a pointless endeavour, which prompted Jürgen Klopp to push Trent Alexander Arnold into a permanent midfield position. Joe Gomez was a revelation in his second half outing and showed continual determination and commitment from right back. Unfortunately, any building momentum was cut short by a moment of inexperience by Jarell Quansah. After a hopeful ball was driven into the red’s penalty box, it saw the 20-year-old defender foul the on-rushing attacker. After a very long VAR review (as the game continued), the play was eventually brought back and the penalty awarded after a pitch side review. Alisson Becker could do nothing against a confident spot kick and the home side were ahead. The subsequent Liverpool changes became a requirement, as the reds German manager made notable alterations to change the dynamic of his team’s play.

Curtis Jones was able to increase the urgency in midfield, Cody Gakpo delivered more intelligent decisions, whereas Harvey Elliott electrified in his 25-minute cameo. The equaliser came due to smart overloads, which finally allowed Jones to tee up Mohamed Salah to score his 200th Liverpool goal. Though a deflection was in effect, the leveller was deserved and came moments after the home side had been reduced to ten men. As the away side smelt blood in the water, it took just five more minutes for Harvey Elliott to score a brilliant goal from the edge of the box. A direct and purposeful run saw an opportunity to shoot present itself, which the former Fulham man took with vicious intent. The ten minutes of injury time forced Ali to produce one more fine save, one which allowed his side to move to the top of the Premier League table.

What Are My Final Thoughts…?

This is a game that was destined to be a tough watch. The Premier League remains intent on overloading its clubs with a crazy schedule, with TV rights dictating much of the fixtures. Though the amount of football on show is a delight for most supporters, you can see in the level of play and erratic results (within this recent period), that players are struggling for both fitness and form. It is hard to criticize certain teams for their negative systems of play, which was clearly the game plan laid out by former Liverpool manager, Roy Hodgson. Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker once again excelled, whereas Mohamed Salah achieved two goal contributions, whilst not playing to his best level. The in-game changes were correct and all those coming into the fray improved massively against those that were failing. Excellence in play and performance is a luxury that cannot be maintained, however, the character to keep winning games is more important than that right now.

The weekend work was carried out as required and Arsenal lost away to Aston Villa, which makes for the perfect table topping ending.

Upcoming Challenges Manchester United arrive next Sunday, after the reds hopefully field a very young team against Union Saint-Gilloise.

Pre-Game Prediction Crystal Palace 1 – 3 Liverpool

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