Palace 1-2 Liverpool
Crystal Palace faced last minute heartache for the second time in a week as their winless run in the Premier League stretched to twelve games. Christian Benteke’s controversial last minute penalty saw ten man Liverpool come from behind to win in the league at Selhurst Park for the first time since 1997 and leave the Eagles looking over their shoulders.
After impressing in the first half and with Liverpool failing to hit the target, Palace could feel unlucky to be going in level. It took just seventeen minutes of the second period for the game to deservedly swing in Alan Pardew’s favour – or so it would seem. Joe Ledley fired in from the edge of the penalty area just three minutes after the restart and with sixty-two minutes on the clock James Milner received his marching orders for a second yellow. Then Liverpool came alive.
Ten minutes passed between Liverpool losing Milner and Roberto Firmino equalising for the visitors and despite being a man light, Jurgen Klopp’s men looked like the only team likely to score and dominated the match for the first time.
The goal came with a slice of fortune. Alex McCarthy, back in the side for the injured Wayne Hennessey, slipped as he tried to launch a clearance and the ball dribbled to Firmino, who picked the ball up, dribbled into the penalty area and slotted past the Palace stopper.
With the run that Palace are on in the League, nerves set in and there was an air of inevitability that Liverpool would find a winner.
Was it a Penalty?
Let’s get this out of the way first. No, I do not think it was a penalty. Stan Collymore actually went on the Crystal Palace defensive on Twitter last night and slagged off the theory that it is a penalty because there was contact. Benteke knows that there is no one in the middle, he knows that he has over hit his touch and knows that he is ending up in a dead end. He waits and waits for contact and falls over like “he’s been shot”, to quote Pardew, and the penalty is awarded. Jamie Carragher said that “we would want it if it was at the other end” like we actually get penalties. We’ve had four this season - that number should be at least trebled to get close to the amount of penalties that we should have had.
We have now lost twice at home in recent weeks to soft penalties yet have to watch Scott Dann get assaulted in the penalty area at West Brom and then have pick between laughing or crying as the ref waves play on.
I could go on for another thousand words quoting ex-pros that loved to dive giving their opinion on it and ripping their bullshit apart but I do not want to dwell here as the fact that it came from such a controversial penalty should not detract from the fact that we were an embarrassment for the last third of the match.
Awful Substitutions and Awful Tactics – Again!
With all due respect Mr Pardew, pull your stubborn head from out of your own backside! I am telling you this. At 1-0 and Milner walking towards the changing rooms, Pardew was standing there licking his chops. He wanted us to go on and pick up a big win so he could gloat about how he ended the run in such style. Instead he took his eye off the ball and seemingly missed the fact that Liverpool had completely changed their shape.
One minute before the sending off, Philippe Coutinho replaced Jon Flanagan and Liverpool switch to three at the back. I was at the League Cup Final last week and watched in amazement at how much better Liverpool looked when they switched to three at the back and if the final went on for five more minutes in normal time, I am convinced that they would have found a winner. Pardew must have been watching that game and must have noticed the shift like I did. Instead of doing anything tactically to try and prevent this from happening, he plumped for “as you were lads” and then watched on as Liverpool run us over in midfield. In moving to three at the back, the sending off did not show because they had sacrificed a defender and offered us chances on the counter attack in order to pit Coutinho, Lallana, Firmino et al against Jedinak, Ledley and Cabaye – only one winner in the battle.
If anyone was going to hurt them in the middle it was Yohan Cabaye, but just before the goal he is removed from the fray. Did he pick up a knock from what was the 198th ankle crunching tackle that he has suffered this season? A tackle that used so much excessive force that I am surprised he got back up? Maybe. His replacement, Jordon “where am I supposed to be” Mutch. With his positional sense roaming around the pitch, Coutinho rubbed his hands and took utter liberties and, coupled with Lallana, they looked like pros having a training session against the under 12s.
Then came more stubbornness from, who now must be classed as, our under pressure (look no further than him blowing his top at Geoff Shreeves for merely asking him why the substitutions didn’t work – that is a man under pressure) manager. Despite the fact that Liverpool were all over us he decided to take off Joe Ledley and Emmanuel Adebayor and bring on Dwight “I never run like a” Gayle and Bakaray “Premier League left peg on a Championship player” Sako. Did he really think that these two players would come on and change the game for us? Did he think that Gayle up top on his own against three centre backs was going to prove fruitful? Did he really think that Sako was going to be any less of a disaster than he was when he came on at Sunderland and opened up the left side for them, from where they eventually gained their equaliser? His sheer want to win prevents him from arresting slides. There are times when you have to just settle for a point and this was one of those times. Instead he couldn’t see past the end of his own nose and genuinely believed, despite all of the evidence being to the contrary, that we could go and win the game. It beggars belief.
Our substitutions in this match are the exact reason why we are in so much trouble. Mutch, Gayle (who should be embarassed with his performance - but from what I hear about him off the field, he won't give two shits) and Sako are not good enough and should all be binned in the summer. We need genuine squad depth and we have none. That has been clear for some time now – yet a transfer window came and went without a soul coming in. Criminal.
Is Relegation a Possibility?
Of course we are going to get away with it. The teams below us are quite simply not good enough to overhaul the 9 point gap. But a lot needs to be addressed in the summer and if it is not – hello Burton away in 2017/18.
However, assume that 38 points is the benchmark (40 is always more than enough) for survival, then we need five more points. Where do those points come from?
Manchester United Away – 0 points (when scheduled)
Leicester City Home – 0 points
West Ham Away – 0 points
Norwich Home – 3 points (it cannot be anything else)
Arsenal Away – 0 points
Everton Home – 1 point
Newcastle Away – 1 point
Stoke Home – 0 points (there is no way we beat them 3 times this year)
Southampton Away – 0 points
On paper, it looks like we JUST get over the line. Let’s just hope that we can all distract ourselves with an FA Cup final….
Play him. Simple. This is not an emotional request, nor am I suggesting that he is the long term answer but the amount of goalkeeping errors are now beyond a joke. Jules will give you two or three errors in a season – we are currently suffering two or three a GAME! Putting him in will calm our back four down and give them trust in the man behind them again – trust that is so clearly not there with Hennessey and any trust that might have been there with McCarthy was blown away the moment he rushed to clear a ball and slipped, when he had all of the time in the world to clear the ball.
Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha
Comfortably our best player at the moment and the early favourite for player of the year. We desperately need everyone to come up to his level.
Up Next: Reading FA Cup Quarter Final
I can’t even begin to imagine what things are going to be like if we do anything but win this match. If our season ends on Friday, the meltdown will be widespread.
Come on you Palace?