Crystal Palace succumbed to narrow defeat on Merseyside, but the south London side gave the league leaders a serious run for their money in a high-tempo seven goal thriller at Anfield.
2,800 sets of eyes in the Anfield Road End were on club legend Julian Speroni, making his 404th start for the club. His early touches were assured, and in the seventh minute, the veteran shot-stopper sprang to life to thwart a great chance for the home side. James Milner’s elegant reverse pass on the edge of the box found Joel Matip who looked to clip the ball over Speroni, but the Argentinian blocked his shot away for a corner.
During the first 15 minutes, Liverpool enjoyed 75% possession, and pressure continue to mount on the Palace box. Roberto Firmino’s trickery found him space on the left-hand side, but his effort from the edge of the box sailed over Speroni’s left hand post. Moments later, a Milner corner found Sadio Mane whose header was smothered by Speroni.
In the 23rd minute, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was being crowded for space the halfway line but he silkily slipped past two oncoming red shirts before offloading to Luka Milivojevic, whose masterful chipped pass released Wilfried Zaha down the right flank. Zaha whipped in a dart of a cross that skimmed Jordan Ayew’s head and out of Alisson’s box, away from danger.
Wave after wave of attacks from the home side were met with typically stubborn and organised Palace defending, creating relatively little cause for concern. Wan-Bissaka’s trademark slide tackles blocked danger on Liverpool’s left wing, Van Aanholt kept Milner and co. quiet down their right, whilst the central wall of Sakho and Tomkins remained impenetrable.
Townsend escaped a penalty shout whilst attempting to clear his lines. The ball appeared to strike his hand on the edge of the box, but it was seemingly unclear if it was Townsend's or Mane's arm, as the pair were intertwined. The decision went Palace's way.
Despite Liverpool's increasing pressure, it was Palace who broke the deadlock after a rapid counter-attack, as Van Aanholt found Zaha on the left who beat his man and delivered a brilliant cut back cross that landed perfectly at Townsend’s left foot and he rifled low, first time, past Alisson. The away end erupted, the Kop silenced.
Mohamed Salah went down softly from a Mamadou Sakho challenge as half time approached, reminiscent of the penalty he won at Selhurst Park earlier in the season. The referee this time was unmoved, and Palace headed down the tunnel with their slender and hard-fought lead intact.
Within a minute of the second half starting, Virgil van Dijk struck a speculative shot from thirty yards and it struck James McArthur’s hip, changing the ball’s direction significantly. It landed in Salah’s path on the edge of the six-yard box, and the Egyptian calmly poked the ball past Speroni.
Minutes later, Naby Keita found Firmino in space on the edge of the box, and the Brazilian side-stepped before striking at goal. The ball hit Cheikhou Kouyate as he flung himself to block, and it trickled agonisingly past Speroni.
Now trailing, Palace began to up the ante. Zaha and Van Aanholt combined to create a headache for Liverpool’s right side of defence. On 64 minutes, Milivojevic’s deep corner found James Tomkins unchallenged at the back post, and he coolly nodded home. Half of the Anfield Road End erupted. 2-2; game on.
Jurgen Klopp was the first to explore options on the bench, with Xherdan Shaqiri replacing Keita with the clock on 71 minutes. Liverpool continued to press, and Milner did well to keep the ball alive on the line dinking the ball into Speroni’s box. Speroni attempted a punch but it was mistimed, and Salah was there to poach his second of the game on the goal-line. 3-2 Liverpool.
Hodgson made three substitutions in four minutes, with Jeffrey Schlupp, Max Meyer and Connor Wickham replacing Kouyate, McArthur and Ayew. With ten to go, a vicious Van Aanholt free-kick found the head of Schlupp, but is crept wide.
Chances were created at both ends at breakneck speed, as Palace searched for an equaliser. In a chaotic final few minutes, Milner saw red for a second yellow, and Mane struck to make it 4-2, three minutes past the 90. Had that been the end of it, the scoreline would have been flattering.
But Roy Hodgson's never-say-die side came back once again. Max Meyer scored his first in a Palace shirt, with a superbly calm finish, but the five minutes of allotted additional time elapsed.
And so it would end 4-3 to Klopp’s men. Liverpool’s search for a long-awaited Premier League title continues. But make no mistake, Palace gave them one hell of a fright.
Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Matip, Van Dijk, Milner, Fabinho (Lallana, 86), Henderson (captain), Keita (Shaqiri, 71), Firmino, Mane, Salah (Camacho, 90+2).
Subs unused: Mignolet, Sturridge, Moreno, Origi.
Palace: Speroni, Van Aanholt, Wan-Bissaka, Sakho, Tomkins, Milivojevic (captain), Kouyate (Schlupp 76), McArthur (Meyer, 80), Zaha, Townsend, Ayew (Wickham, 80).
Subs unused: Tupper (GK), Dann, Benteke, Kelly.
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