Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2
Wilfied Zaha’s long-overdue first goal of the season was not enough to give Palace a share of the spoils – in spite of a stirring performance against the runaway league leaders.
Five years ago, Palace famously killed Liverpool’s hopes of ending their long wait for a title with a 3-3 draw after trailing 3-0. It may be too early in the season to inflict comparable damage but at times they looked like they might end the visitors unbeaten run in the Premier League, which is now 30 matches.
They had what looked to be a perfectly good goal ruled out harshly by VAR and having deservedly drawn level – reward for a gritty effort – they allowed Liverpool to snatch a late winner.
Palace looked good from the outset and were very close to opening the scoring when a stray pass gave Andros Townsend the chance to run at a retreating defence and although he was halted, Chiek Kouyate followed up to plant a perfect cross onto the toe of Jordan Ayew, who stabbed just wide.
And there was more encouragement when Gary Cahill rose highest to meet a free-kick from Luka Milivojevic and his header bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Just five minutes before the break, Palace thought they had taken the lead when James Tomkins stole in at the far post to nod in from close range after an in-curling Milivojevic free-kick flicked off the head of Georgino Wijnaldum.
But the celebrations were cut short by VAR, which ruled there had been a push by Ayew on Dejan Lovren and the pair went up at the near post. The replays suggested it was a tough call, with neither player anywhere near the ball and the contact seemed run-of-the-mill rather than decisive.
Jurgen Klopp’s men had been unimpressive before the break but looked more menacing after the restart, taking the lead through Sadio Mane on 49 minutes.
The Senegal striker fired just wide soon after the resumption, after being picked out by Jordan Henderson, but he managed to put the league leaders in front moments later.
Palace failed to deal with a ball in from the left and Mane’s left foot toe-poke found its way over the line via a glove from Vicente Guaita and the inside of the keeper’s right hand post.
Undaunted, the Eagles hit back. Andros Townsend forced Alisson to tip over with a shot from outside the area and twice Milivojevic let fly from distance as Palace reacted well to the setback.
And they stayed in the hunt when Guaita made a fine stop, deflecting a Roberto Firmino shot wide when he found the Brazilian bearing down on him and odds-on to make it 2-0.
Then it was the turn of two subs to go close. Roy Hodgson introduced Jeffrey Schlupp and Christian Benteke into the fray and after the former crashed a shot just past an upright, the latter’s spectacular bicycle kick also flew just off target.
Palace kept believing and deservedly drew level with eight minutes remaining after great work by Benteke and Townsend to work the ball to Zaha and after a clever feint to throw off a defender, the winger buried his shot into the bottom corner.
With the ground in a state of high excitement, thoughts of a famous win for the Eagles were palpable, but within three minutes the dream was quashed as Firmino took advantage of turmoil in the home defence following a corner to find a corner of unguarded net.
Even then, there gain could have ended all square, but Zaha missed his cue when given a clear target inside the area but rushing his strike.
It was all rough justice for the Eagles, who cannot have played as well as this without reward for a while.
Line-up: Guaita – Ward (Kelly 70), Cahill, Tomkins, Van Aanholt – McArthur, Kouyate (Schlupp 72), Milivoyevic, Townsend – Ayew (Benteke 76), Zaha. Subs not used: Hennessey, Dann, Meyer, McCarthy.