A simply stunning game of Premier League football was played out at Anfield on Sunday morning, with Liverpool coming from behind to win 4-3 against Crystal Palace and maintain momentum at the top of the table.
Andros Townsend fired Palace into the lead just past the half hour mark when James McArthur played himself out of Liverpool’s press, springing a counter attack which saw Wilfried Zaha’s cut-back find Townsend to finish low and hard into the Kop end net.
The Reds had the leveller not yet a minute after the restart when a speculative long-range strike from Virgil van Dijk was blocked before looping up into the box allowing Mohamed Salah to pounce for what is becoming his customary Anfield goal.
Just seven minutes later the hosts found the lead when a recycled corner found the ball at the feet of Roberto Firmino in the penalty area, whose turn and deflected shot bobbled into the bottom right corner past a clawing Julian Speroni.
James Tomkins hauled the visitors back on terms in the 65th minute with a superb header, leaping unattended at the back post from what was Crystal Palace’s first corner of the match.
Liverpool continued to push and there was yet another twist 15 minutes from time when a long ball over the top of the Palace defence found James Milner on the right side of the box. His volleyed cut-back was made a meal of by the visitors’ third string goalkeeper Speroni, allowing Salah to make sure right on the goal line, nudging in his 50th Premier League goal.
A late red card to stand-in right back Milner threatened to derail Liverpool’s comeback victory until Sadio Mane stole into to finish beautifully from a tight angle in the third minute of added time, seemingly all but securing a superb victory for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Despite that, Max Meyer made it an incredible scoreline almost immediately after that, finishing coolly into the bottom left corner just to make sure it was not too comfortable for the home side in the final minute.
Zaha spearheads the visitors
Coming up against a reliable yet inexperienced James Milner in playing right back in the Premier League, Palace’s Ivorian star took the game on and very nearly led his side to a positive result on Merseyside.
After his largely failed stint at Liverpool’s bitter rivals Manchester United, Zaha has gone from strength to strength in the red and blue of Crystal Palace and showed why the top clubs ought to consider an approach for him in the future.
His pace, skilfulness and directness had Liverpool on the back foot every time he touched the ball, as he had the beating of not only Milner, but all attempts at restraining his impact from the home side.
He is courageous on the ball, always looking to go forward and beat his man, and it was clear in the way that Roy Hodgson set up his team that the plan was very much for Zaha to be the outlet player and to let him carve out chances in the final third.
Liverpool came into this game having conceded only twice at home in the league this season, and Zaha’s quality saw the opening goal of the game zip into the Kop end net and set Palace on their way to becoming just the second side to score multiple goals past the Reds in a single Premier League game in 2018-19.
Liverpool’s best win of the season
Whilst not the home drubbing of Arsenal, an impressive win at Wembley over Spurs or big rivalry wins against Everton and Manchester United at Anfield, this is Liverpool’s best win in the Premier League so far this season.
So often it has been noted in recent weeks the exponential rise of the pragmatism and maturity of Klopp’s side this season, and the phrase “this is a game that champions win” has been thrown around quite regularly, however in this case it truly is the case.
In seasons previous, under different managers and even in Klopp’s early reign, Liverpool would not have won this game. Twice coming from non-winning positions, the league leaders rallied and, with the backing of the raucous Kop faithful, they managed to see themselves over the line.
Champion teams find a way, they turn zero points into one, and one point into three, and Liverpool did all that in one match here, maintaining their high level of play and intense pressure to eventually overpower their opponents.
Fabinho and Jordan Henderson held down the midfield, whilst the front three all showed their quality and goalscoring instincts as they broke down the rigid Palace defensive set-up, not without their fair share of luck though with the van Dijk deflection and Speroni’s costly error.
Liverpool rode their luck, came away with the three points and sustained the pressure on Manchester City chasing them from second spot, and so long as they continue to win football games, no matter in what way they achieve that, the title race will remain in their hands.
Salah raises the bat
With his second goal of the match, Salah notched his 50th in the Premier League, tying Fernando Torres’ record of 72 games taken to reach that feat, one which is only ousted in the history books by Ruud van Nistelrooy (68 games), Alan Shearer (66 games) and Andy Cole (65 games).
By far not his most brilliant strike was the 50th, but that makes it all the more special as the Egyptian has reinvigorated himself in the English game after a disappointing spell at Chelsea, developing himself into a natural goalscorer and one of the premier attackers in world football.
He has scored headers, left footers and right footers, from inside and outside of the box, latching onto balls in behind or creating his own goals slaloming through defences, and has scored many an important goal in his first season and a half on Merseyside.
Silencing his critics along the way, Salah has again taken sole ownership of the top spot on the goal charts with 16 league strikes, and in the current form he is in, he will undoubtedly continue to bang goals in for the Reds as he looks to guide them to the illusive Premier League crown.