Eagles give Liverpool a scare as they almost battle back from the dead
Crystal Palace (0) 1 Edouard 55
Liverpool (2) 3 Van Dijk 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 32, Fabinho pen 89
Palace recovered from a humbling opening 40 minutes to come close to claiming a share of the spoils with a gutsy comeback.
The Reds were in total command during the opening passages of play and deservedly led 2-0 – their pressing and passing creating turnovers aplenty in the Eagles’ half.
It seemed inconceivable at that point that the Eagles might find a way back against the outside title hopefuls, but after twice
going close to pegging a goal back before the break, they found the net after the break and stretched a suddenly-vulnerable looking Liverpool with their speed down the flanks.
It needed a controversial late penalty to secure the visitors all three points after what had been a testing second half, which should at least give Patrick Vieira’s men great heart.
It took only eight minutes for the Holmesdale Road drummer to be put off his stroke.
Vicente Guaita dived low to send a Jordan Henderson drive out for a corner but from Andrew Robertson’s ensuing corner-kick, Virgil van Dijk was given the freedom to power home an unopposed header at the near post.
Soon after, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain almost converted an angled Robertson cross to the far post – clipping his shot into the side-netting, and Fabinho fired over from just outside the box after the ball had been worked back into space to create a clear opening.
Liverpool were in total control and a second goal was coming.
More clever patterns of passing ended with the ball being spread wide to Robertson on the left and his lifted ball over the Palace defence found Oxlade-Chamberlain at the far post and he drilled home with his left foot, having had time to chest the ball down and pick his spot.
Palace were finding it so tough to keep possession and get numbers up the field, but had two good opportunities to get back into it before the break and it changed the atmosphere.
A stray pass from Joel Matip gave Michael Olise an interception and clear run on goal, which Alisson keeping out the final shot with an outstretched leg.
Then Jean-Philippe Mateta came within a whisker of finding the net when he latched onto a fine pass from Olise, rounded Alisson and then arrowed a shot wide of the far post as the angle worsened and two defenders raced back to cover the line.
There was more encouragement right at the start of the second half too when Olise’s quick feet gave Conor Gallagher a header from six yards which came at the midfielder too quickly for him to nod on target.
Moments later, Odsonne Edouard’s backheel almost found a way through – the chance created when Jeffrey Schlupp nodded down another cross from the dangerous Olise.
The goal they had been threatening finally arrived when Schlupp angled a perfect ball for Mateta to run onto, and with only Alisson to beat, the striker unselfishly slipped the ball to his left for Edouard to put away.
Tails up, Palace almost drew level immediately. Joachim Andersen broke up an attempt by Liverpool to counter-attack and drove on before hammering a left foot shot just past an upright.
When Liverpool were caught flat-footed by a long punt forward, Olise was on the end of it to lift the ball goalwards. Alisson, who had come way off his line, managed to scrambled back to tip the ball around a post.
Hopes were high that they might yet save a point. But as the game reached its climax, Liverpool put the game to bed with a Fabinho penalty after a VAR intervention.
Referee Kevin Friend initially saw nothing in Diogo Jota’s tumble into Guaita but an alert from Craig Pawson at Stockley Park advised a look at the minitor.
The penalty award looked soft in the extreme and did not do much to ease the frustrations of home fans, who were already of the official’s case for what they felt were a number of iffy calls.
This is a fixture the Eagles have not enjoyed in recent seasons. Among the 10 wins in a row now amassed by the Reds against them, there was that unspeakable 7-0 mauling last season.
But this was a clear indication that they are a much tougher proposition these days.
Eagles: (4-3-3) Guaita – Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell – Gallagher, Hughes (Ayew 77), Schlupp – Olise, Edouard (Eze 68), Mateta (Benteke 77). Subs not used: Butland, Milivojevic, Clyne, Kelly, Ferguson, Riedewald
Reds: (4-3-3) Alisson – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson, Fabinho, Jones – Oxlade-Chamberlain (Minamino 60), Firmino (Milner 90), Jota. Subs not used: Kelleher, Konate, Gomez, Tsimikas, Gordon, N Williams, Morton