By Umarah Naz
As Liverpool succumbed to Crystal Palace at Anfield (again!), it was a case of which centre-back infuriated us the most.
Was it the inept display by Dejan Lovren or his ex, Mamadou Sakho, celebrating Christian Benteke’s equaliser?
Probably the former, and rightly so. As much as Sakho giving LFC the proverbial slap in the face irked many, it was our own flaws that lost us the game.
Detracting from them by concentrating on the poor judgement of an exiled player could be described as poor form. Safe to say, Sakho’s not coming back from this one but his revenge was oh so sweet.
That celebration is just part of the Sakho package. When he’s on your side he’s on your side 100%. LFC could do with some of that.
— Kopcast LFC (@KopLeft) April 23, 2017
Benteke, another ex-LFC player ousted by Jurgen Klopp, made sure that Palace came from behind and took all three points back to London, denting our top four hopes in the process.
For a team that knew CL qualification was in their own hands, Liverpool’s performance on Sunday afternoon certainly didn’t reflect that. After two consecutive wins against away at Stoke and WBA, the momentum seemed to be with us with the “difficult” run-in that loomed ahead.
An uneventful first twenty minutes saw Liverpool predictably have most of the possession but with little of the final ball. Cue Phillipe Coutinho, who has been rekindling his early season form of late.
After the Brazilian was fouled roughly twenty-five yards out, he finished the job with a perfectly executed free-kick that even 6′ 5″ Hennessy plus arms, fingers, gloves and a prayer couldn’t get anywhere near.
The customary nerves eased and Liverpool were in front. But the euphoria lasted only twenty minutes as Cabaye left Lovren reeling out of position while simultaneously exposing Matip’s lack of pace.
He fired in a low cross for Benteke to drill home and cancel out Liverpool’s slender lead. The Palace striker could have put the visitors in front with a better finish before the break when he chested and volleyed straight at Mignolet.
All was not lost, however, but with a much weakened bench with four teenagers and an average age of 19.8, Liverpool needed to find the answers with their first eleven.
The second-half began with the home side looking to put pressure on Big Sam’s defence. In the space of just a few minutes, Coutinho shot over and wide on his weaker foot followed by a lovely piece of skill weaving through all the Palace defenders, but his final shot was knocked off target by Tomkins.
A penalty shout wouldn’t have been outrageous as Coutinho appeared to have been clipped in the box, but in his efforts to score he stayed on his feet.
Moments later, Coutinho again was involved when his header skimmed off teammate Origi to go wide. But by far the best chance fell to Firmino who was sent through on goal by a beautiful defence-splitting pass by Lucas.
He hesitated just before hitting as it seemed he was anticipating Hennessey to miss and he would skip over the keeper. As it was, the goalkeeper collected the ball and the chance went begging.
As the magic substitute mark approached, also known as sixty minutes, one wondered who Klopp could bring on from the bench to have a positive impact on the game.
With Moreno being the most attractive choice, you knew something was very wrong. So Klopp decided to do nothing and ran with it till seventy-five minutes.
Not before seeing his team concede again from a Lovren-riddled goal.
First he conceded the corner which led to the goal, and when the corner did come in he (with a little help from all his teammates) left Benteke unmarked in the box. A poor corner from Palace ended in them taking a 2-1 lead at Anfield.
Unforgivable defending from Liverpool.
That, however, kicked Klopp into action with his first substitution. Alexander-Arnold came on for Lovren who was supposedly replaced for taking a knock, but it was probably to spare his blushes any further.
Klopp switched to a three at the back with Can dropping in between Matip and Lucas. Two more substitutions in quick succession saw Moreno and Grujic replace Milner and Clyne but it was too little too late as Liverpool were undone by Palace once again.
And worse still, by Sam Allardyce. His post-match comments were like daggers to LFC fans’ hearts. Although we know our weaknesses inside out, Allardyce reiterating them with glee twisted those daggers ever so slightly more.
Frailties at set-pieces, centre-backs being exposed by the fullbacks pushing upfield and the general inability to cope with the basics of defending all played into Palace’s hands. We obliged them and they accepted gratefully.
Teams know that they really don’t need to do much offensively to beat us. They just need to bide their time and opportunities inevitably will present themselves.
Despite this setback, our Champions League hopes still remain, but the momentum does not.
It’s true that our rivals still have games against each other but, right now, can we be expected to keep our end of the bargain? This is the crux of the matter. We cannot and should not rely on other teams doing us any favours. When has that ever worked out for us?
Four games remain. Watford, who we lost to last season; Southampton, who we haven’t beaten this season in three attempts; West Ham, who have been a pain in the arse for a few years now, and Middlesbrough on the last day of the season.
It would take a brave soul to predict those results.
Top four is certainly within the realms of possibility but it will go down to the wire; a situation we have created for ourselves.
If Sunday’s performance is any inkling then it’s going to be long and difficult summer as LFC fans. Get our act together, however, and it could define the seasons to come. No pressure then…