Palace 1-2 Liverpool
Crystal Palace lost out late yet again at Selhurst Park against one of the big boys, Liverpool being the beneficiaries of a late winner on this occasion.
Roy Hodgson's men went toe to toe with Jurgen Klopp’s and can consider themselves extremely unlucky not to come away with at least a point. A combination of poor finishing, brilliant goalkeeping and terrible refereeing allowed Mo Salah to slot home the winner six minutes from time.
Luka Milivojevic scored his 9th goal of the season in the 12th minute after Wilfried Zaha was flattened by Loris Karius in the penalty area. The Serbian sent the German stopper the wrong way for his 7th penalty conversion of the season – a Premier League high.
When speaking to the opposition fan on the Holmesdale Radio Preview Podcast this weekend, he highlighted that Trent Alexander-Arnold could be easily exploited by Zaha and he was inside the opening ten minutes. A long diagonal Milivojevic pass saw Zaha easily get the wrong side of the young Liverpool full-back, pull the ball down expertly out of the air before firing a shot that Karius did extremely well to stand up big to deny the Palace forward the opening goal.
Virgil van Dijk came close to opening the scoring for the visitors, but his goal-bound header was directed wide by Sadio Mane – Mane would have quite the afternoon.
After golden chances at each end, the Palace opener came. Wayne Hennessey’s long goal-kick was flicked on by Christian Benteke, and Zaha was once again on the wrong side of Alexander-Arnold and into the area where he was felled for the penalty.
Referee Neil Swarbrick had more to do shortly after when Mane went down in the penalty area under a slide tackle from James McArthur. There was the slightest of contact, Mane was completely unaffected by the contact but then decided to throw himself theatrically to the ground after a delay to try and con the referee. Swarbrick tried to allow play to go on and let the dive escape punishment, a roaring Holmesdale Road end encouraged him to rightly change his mind and book the cheating forward.
Palace have struggled from corners all season long, and they almost fell foul yet again as Mane headed home at the back post only for the goal to be correctly ruled out for offside. Still, Palace failed to learn their lesson, and the next Liverpool corner almost yielded an equalising goal. Mane, this time at the near post, flicked a driven corner goalwards, but Hennessey was equal to the task.
The hosts started the second-half well and twice found themselves in fantastic positions on the counter, only to falter with the final pass. The second of these counter-attacks setup a counter-attack for the visitors and there were no mistakes from the visitors as the move ended with Mane converting a James Milner cross. With only four minutes of the second-half in the books, it felt like it was going to be a long half for Palace. Who said, ‘cheaters never prosper’?
Then came a minute of madness in which Palace probably lost the game. Milner tried to force a pass forwards only for Milivojevic to block the way. The ball sprang up towards Andros Townsend, and his first-time header saw Benteke in between the Liverpool centre-backs. With Karius drifting into no-mans-land, Benteke attempted to lift the ball over the German only to get it all so very wrong.
Seconds later, the Belgium striker had a chance to redeem himself. Townsend caught van Dijk in possession and drove towards the penalty area. Matip came across, and Townsend cut inside the diving centre-back, but this is where it started to go wrong. Townsend had turned into the retreating van Dijk, and this forced him to pass quicker than he would have liked and he put the ball behind Benteke who was completely unmarked in the middle. The under hit pass gave Jordan Henderson a chance to put in a slide tackle that rushed the Palace number 17, and he lifted the ball over the bar. Benteke had landed himself with a heap more haters before the ball had even landed in the Holmesdale.
Then came the games moment of true controversy. Townsend once again caught a Liverpool player in possession and this time it was Mane. Having already shown himself eager to hit the deck, Mane collapsed under the slighted contact from Townsend, and the referee did not deem it a foul. Townsend is about to take the ball into the penalty area where Benteke, Yohan Cabaye and Zaha all awaited only for Mane to pick the ball up! Can you believe it? He has literally picked the ball up when on a yellow card. The Reds were going to be down to ten men, and maybe Palace could go on and win the game.
We all know the rest.
Swarbrick decides not to book Mane, despite the rules of the game literally saying that he must and Palace have to settle for just the free-kick:
Klopp said: “It was no dive. Diving is without contact. There was contact, 100 percent. The player wants to carry on, and then you see you can’t, so you go down. He didn’t wait for the contact, he felt it. Everybody saw it.
“We cannot say it was a penalty, but it was not a dive. And then he has to go through the whistling constantly when he gets the ball because the referee was sure there was no contact or something like that.
“The second yellow? I think it was a foul on Sadio, but he made the wrong decision to put the hand on the ball. I thought ‘right, that’s it! Au revoir!’ I thought he was gone. We were lucky in that moment, but in my opinion, that should have been his first card of the game."
Of course, it is difficult to take a man seriously when he says, “diving is without contact” as this was a black and white example of when there can be diving with contact. But, in there his shock that Mane wasn’t red carded is clear. The Liverpool’s boss response was to substitute the man before he could actually get his marching orders. This is on the first time that Palace have seen a man that should have been sent off leave the field via a substitution instead. I remember it happening four times in the last four seasons against Arsenal, Bournemouth, Spurs and now Liverpool. How many times has it happened in Palace’s favour? You don’t need me to tell you that the answer is zero.
Patrick van Aanholt, eventually, took the resulting free-kick and Karius did well to push the Dutchman’s effort behind for a corner.
The game looked set for a draw, but in the 84th minute and after not getting a sniff all game, Salah was on hand to score from close range, and the Scousers had completed a league double over the Eagles for the first time in twenty years.
Man of the Match: Patrick van Aanholt
As Benteke loses fans by the week, van Aanholt appears to be picking them up. This period of games has undoubtedly been his best in a Palace shirt, and if he can consistently perform to this level, my doubts about him will fade into obscurity.
I know that he ended up scoring the winner, but Pat kept Salah quiet the entire afternoon, and not many can make that claim this season. Well played, mate.
Up Next: Bournemouth
This is a tricky one, and with Bournemouth having consistently been the dirtiest team I have seen in this league since they were promoted, I fear for our players' well-being as they all seem to be so fragile. Hopefully, we can ride the challenges and find a way to add three points to the tally.
Come on you Palace!