LIVERPOOL 3-1 CRYSTAL PALACE (PREMIER LEAGUE)
A storming first half display from Liverpool saw them leave Anfield with all three points against a battling Crystal Palace side.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers made just one change – an enforced one – with the suspended Lucas Leiva being replaced by Raheem Sterling with Jordan Henderson moving into the middle next to captain Steven Gerrard. Palace manager Ian Holloway made four changes with Danny Gabbidon, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Barry Bannan and Dwight Gayle being replaced in the starting line up by Damien Delaney, Stewart O’Keefe, Jimmy Kébé and Jason Puncheon.
Liverpool started the game quickly, pushing Palace back into their own half but it was the visitors who created the first clear chance on eight minutes. Marouane Chamakh played the ball through to Jason Puncheon on the left hand side of the Liverpool area. The Southampton loanee took on Kolo Toure down the outside before clipping a cross into the middle. Unfortunately for the Eagles it was just too high for Cameron Jerome to reach and he could only flick his header wide of the far post.
It was a minor warning for Liverpool but they continued pressing. A Henderson pass towards the left was dummied by Luis Suarez (making his first appearance at Anfield since his ban) and found its way to Jose Enrique. The Spaniard played a lovely low ball from the left into the penalty box for Victor Moses but the Nigerian couldn’t control the ball on the run and the danger passed. Palace didn’t heed the warning and payed for it after 13 minutes.
The ball was worked out to Suarez on the left side of the Palace area and the Uruguayan striker was quick enough to realise Enrique was making an overlapping run. His pull back wasn’t dealt with and came to Suarez’s feet who, despite slipping, managed to prod the ball home from ten yards out. It was a deserved goal and relaxed the home fans. And the Anfield faithful was celebrating again just four minutes later.
Daniel Sturridge – who had already tested Julian Speroni with a good shot just two minutes before – got the ball on the left after a misjudgment by Adrian Mariappa. He decided to run towards goal but had Delaney in his way. He turned the centre back inside out a couple of times before firing a low shot across Speroni and into the net from a tough angle. It was a great goal from a striker really in form.
Liverpool were looking good but they were almost undone after 25 minutes. A long ball drew in Martin Skrtel and Mahmadou Sakho which allowed Kébé in behind. The Malian winger showed no composure however and completely fluffed his lines by making very poor contact with the ball. Liverpool did not clear it well though as Puncheon teed up an onrushing Jerome whose shot was deflected toward goal by Kébé. It forced an excellent stop from Simon Mignolet but the Belgian could only parry it into the danger area where Puncheon blazed over under pressure from Skrtel. It was a number of huge chances for Palace in a short space of time and one that they would regret missing.
They almost got lucky on the half hour mark though. Chamakh once again slipped the ball down the left but this time to Jerome. His low cross deflected off Toure and, when Mignolet couldn’t reach it, Sakho sliced the ball just wide of the far post with his right foot. It was almost a calamitous own goal but just eight minutes later Liverpool were coasting.
Sterling attempted a one-two with Suarez and, as he ran onto the Uruguayan’s return pass, was pulled down by Palace left back Dean Moxey. Referee Anthony Taylor deliberated and consulted his assistant before awarding the penalty. It was somewhat contentious with the replays showing that the contact was outside the box. It didn’t matter to Gerrard who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner while sending Speroni the wrong way.
Liverpool and in particular Suarez were causing Palace all sorts of problems heading into the break. A Suarez cutback teed up Moses but the winger could only play the ball of each knee and hit the crossbar from very close range. Sturridge hit a shot at Speroni before Suarez tested the Argentinean stopper right on half time.
Holloway made two changes at half time with Jose Campaña and Dwight Gayle coming on for Kébé and Jerome and this made a huge difference to Palace. They were beginning to compete and retain possession thanks to the composure of Campaña in the middle of midfield. However, they were not really troubling Liverpool who had taken their foot clean off the gas. And the hosts gifted Palace a good chance with just over twenty minutes to play.
Palace were pressing Enrique in his own half and the Spaniard inexplicably played a blind pass to Gayle. Palace’s record signing took on Skrtel but couldn’t keep his shot down from the edge of the box. He was very angry with himself but that anger only lasted nine minutes.
Sterling gave a Palace a free kick on the left in a dangerous position for a foul on substitute Yannick Bolaise. Campaña took it and whipped it hard and fast towards the near post. Both Enrique and Gerrard allowed Gayle to run past them to the front post and the striker proceeded to flick it just inside the far post. It was a deserved goal and one that kicked Liverpool back into a little bit of life.
Substitute Luis Alberto drew two defenders on the left and played the ball inside them to Suarez. The Uruguayan played the ball back to the edge of the box where Sturridge was waiting. The striker got off a great shot with his right foot and was extremely unlucky to see it hit the post and go right across goal and away. It also proved to be last piece of action of the game.
It was a good Liverpool performance in the first half but there will be some concern from Brendan Rodgers over the lackadaisical second half. Ian Holloway will be pleased with the way his side went for it and created chances but their defending has to be better if they are going to survive in the Premier League.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Toure, Skrtel, Sakho (Agger 67), Gerrard (c), Henderson, Sterling, Enrique, Moses (Alberto 66), Sturridge (Aspas 88), Suarez
Subs: Jones, Wisdom, Ilori, Ibe
Goal: Suarez, Sturridge, Gerrard
Yellow: Sterling, Aspas
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Mariappa, Delaney, Moxey, Jedinak (c), O’Keefe, Kébé (Gayle 46), Jerome (Campaña 46), Puncheon, Chamakh (Bolaise 68)
Subs: Price, Inniss, Guedioura, Phillips
MAN OF THE MATCH: LUIS SUAREZ (LIVERPOOL)