Despite the narrow defeat at Old Trafford two weeks ago I thought we looked a lot better in every department but four defeats from our last five games saw us drop down the table and into the relegation zone so what better match to put it all right than against our old enemy, a stuttering Liverpool.
The mighty reds came into this match on a run of back of back defeats and in all honesty I fancied us to get a result, a 1-0 win or 1-1 draw.
Liverpool opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Ricky Lambert playing the lone striker role. As we have seen this season, without Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in the starting line up they are nowhere near as formidable, and with only two clean sheets from eleven matches prior to Sunday, they will always give you a chance at the back.
An exceptional pass from Adam Lallana coupled with some good movement from Ricky Lambert caught Martin Kelly out and the strikers first touch and finish punished our lack of concentration and we found ourselves 1-0 down within two minutes of the kick off, not the start we wanted.
I was pleased to see Dwight Gayle start the match and as I’ve said many times, for me, his technique is right up there with AJ, Wrighty and Glenn Murray. He did what we wanted him to do. His hold up play was good and tactically he got close to Steven Gerrard as much as possible, denying Gerrard the space to execute his long defence splitting passes but most importantly he took his one and only clear cut chance.
When Dwight couldn’t get near to Gerrard it was left to Chamakh to disrupt their anchorman. Gerrard’s stats spoke for themselves, from 68 passes, he only hit 10 long passes and 58 short ones. He has caused us a lot of problems in the past by changing play and turning our defence around with his searching passes, so that was a job well done.
Raheem Sterling played in a three behind Lambert but hardly ever ran past one of our back four and constantly came short to receive the ball (a defenders dream) so he was always in front of them. Last season the reason Liverpool were so successful was because Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge went past defenders and stretched games by running in behind the defence. For all Liverpool’s possession they constantly kept playing in front of our back four and lacked penetration, determination and for all their ability, their performance lacked a cutting edge and creativity. One shot on target, which came in the first two minutes of the match, speaks for itself.
Yes they had mobility and great technical players, but Mile and Joe were solid in front of our back four and when Delaney hobbled off in the first half Brede came in and picked up the reins and we carried on without disruption. In possession we were the most creative team. Yannick capped a fine week personally and following a man of the match display for Sierra Leone in the Africa Cup Nations Qualifiers he took the game to the Liverpool defence, in stark contrast to Liverpool’s forwards. He was direct, dangerous and productive. Yannick assisted our first two goals, Gayle scored from Yala’s shot which hit the post, then Joe Ledley got our second with a tap in following some magical skills from Yannick down our right hand side. In the 81st minute Martin Skrtel pulled back Dwight Gayle, (not for the first time) got booked and his team got punished with a pin point free kick by the skipper Mile Jedinak, a goal that capped a fine personal display and a brilliant team performance.
Some hard work at the training ground meant that we were ready for which ever formation Brendon Rodgers decided to play. Whether a diamond or 4-2-3-1, it was about keeping the play in front of the defence. They always have a lot of possession, but Palace had to be patient, work hard, block off a route to Lambert and not allow Gerrard time to pick off long passes. Their defence has been their weakness and we exploited it to great affect.
I was particularly pleased for Kelly and Scott Dann. It's always a big game against Liverpool but when you’re a former Liverpool player and a fan its even sweeter.
The manager, his staff and the team deserve all the credit, we once again delivered during a live match to the world and proved that on our day, we are match for anyone in the Barclays Premier League.