Ruthless, unforgiving Liverpool make humiliated Eagles suffer
Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 7
Liverpool tapped into their ruthless streak with some sublime finishing to blow the shattered Eagles away.
Palace were outstanding in the first half but found themselves 3-0 down as Jurgen Klopp’s men produced the sort of display which characterised last season’s relentless march to the title.
It was not as if Roy Hodgson’s men did anything obviously wrong to find themselves crushed before the half was out. They were full of bright, attacking intent and caused problems for Liverpool which suggested we could be in for a tight contest.
But when the champions are in this mood, they are nearly impossible to contain and it was the first time Palace had conceded five at home in any competition since a 6-1 loss to Liverpool in 1994.
Liverpool had their tails up after that last-gasp win over Spurs in midweek and they set off as if intent on getting the business done as quickly as possible.
They needed just two minutes to be rewarded for that approach – as Takumi Minamino scored his first goal for the Reds after taking the ball off Sadio Mane inside the box and side-stepping Nathaniel Clyne before firing low into the bottom corner.
But Palace responded impressively. A tantalising low cross from Wilfried Zaha so really reached the boot of Jordan Ayew, yards from goal. Only a late touch from Fabinho eased it out of harm’s way.
Then Luka Milivojevic spotted Alisson way off his line and chanced his arm from 40 yards – the keeper getting back in time to avoid any embarrassment.
Ayew headed straight at Alisson from a floated Milivojevic free-kick, although a linesman’s hoisted flag told us a goal would not have counted. No such intervention would have helped out the visitors from a corner soon after, though, when Jeffrey Schlupp caused a few palpitations with a near-post header.
Zaha would later brush the side-netting with a rippling shot.
“Combinations, combinations,” bellowed Hodgson’s assistant, Ray Lewington, on the touchline, delighted to see training ground routines coming off.
But as is so often the way against the champions, the punishment for not quite making good spells count is to suffer the consequences and a brilliant finish from Mane from the edge of the box made it 2-0.
The Senegal striker eased past Clyne with a touch inside after being found by a deft touch from Bobby Firmino and that extra yard of space was all that was needed in a crowded area. He unleashed a drive firmly past Vicente Guaita into the bottom corner.
There was more to come. As the game neared half-time, an Eagles attack was broken up and Firmino rolled a ball out wide to Andy Robertson, with oceans of space to run into. His floated return cross was just perfect for the Brazilian, who collected and steered the ball home for the cruelest of half-time scores.
Seven minutes after the restart, Jordan Henderson’s smart finish from a lay-off by Trent Alexander-Arnold put the Reds further out of reach and Mo Salah then came on for Mane and was soon playing in Firmino for a dinked finish over Guaita.
There was still no calling off of the hounds, though and when Joel Matip rose up to nod on a corner, Salah was there to head past the hapless Palace keeper from just a few yards and Salah helped himself with a fine angled chip to make it seven.
It was sublime, it was beautiful. But for Palace it was as painful as can be. For once, those fans who had been hoping to attend will be so grateful that the move to Tier 3 spared them the humiliation.
Palace: Guaita – Clyne, Kouyate (Tomkins 63), Cahill, Van Aanholt – Schlupp, Milivojevic, McArthur (Riedewald 74), Eze (Batshuayi 69) – Zaha, Ayew. Subs not used: Butland, Ward, Dann, Townsend, McCarthy, Mitchell