An early second-half strike from Sadio Mane canceled out a Luka Milivojevic opener from the spot before Mohamed Salah seized maximum points for the Reds six minutes from time.
Jurgen Klopp knew that coming into Crystal Palace to get a result is a hard job. Add to that a Champions League quarterfinal date against Manchester City in four days, and Liverpool certainly have their work cut out for them. Indeed, Palace made Liverpool work so hard. However, Mohamed Salah came to the Reds’ rescue yet again.
And not only did he come to his side’s rescue, he did so with an almost insulting air of nonchalance. The Egyptian’s 29th league goal of the season looked so simple when in reality, it was far from that. Moreover, the manner in which Liverpool achieved the victory proved difficult as well.
21 – Mohamed Salah has now scored in the joint-most Premier League games in a single 38-match season (also Robin van Persie 2012-13 and Cristiano Ronaldo 2007-08). Solid. #CRYLIV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 31, 2018
For all the possession Liverpool enjoyed in the early goings, they failed to test Wayne Hennessey on goal. By contrast, the Eagles immediately asked questions of Loris Karius in their first meaningful touch of the ball, as if it was a choreographed start.
Klopp singles out Zaha as the Eagles’ main threat
Just before the match, Klopp had identified Wilfried Zaha as the danger man for the Eagles. And in hindsight, the Reds boss couldn’t have made a more precise assessment. The former Manchester United winger caused havoc early on as his pace got the better of the Reds backline. Zaha forced an early save from Karius after running in behind and latching on to a James McArthur high ball. While the Ivorian appeared to handle the ball in the process, the referee or his assistants made no call.
Still, the Liverpool backline’s occasional shakiness do not necessarily reflect when its personnel ventured upfront. The towering Virgil van Dijk showed he could use his head in the opponents’ box precisely. But as the Dutch defender perfectly headed an effort towards goal, its trajectory didn’t miss Sadio Mane, and the Senegal forward’s instinctive reaction deflected the centreback’s header agonisingly wide.
Palace sat deep, but as Zaha run in behind again, the Eagles found success. Christian Benteke flicked a header goalwards and as Zaha latched on to the ball, Karius charged more in hope than expectation. His late challenge brought the Palace winger down on a heap and Neil Swarbrick immediately pointed to the spot.
4 – No player has won more Premier League penalties this season than Wilfried Zaha (4, level with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Raheem Sterling). Targeted. #CRYLIV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 31, 2018
After being booked, Karius dived the wrong way against Luka Milivojevic’s penalty but the power and precision with which the Serbian international struck his penalty suggest the Liverpool No1, or any other keeper for that matter, couldn’t have possibly kept it out.
Reds up tempo, equalise through Mane
The goal gave Palace some much-needed breathing space against the Reds who monopolised possession. After the Eagles’ opener, Klopp’s charges maintained the scorching tempo with which they started and not long after, Mane thought he had restored parity. During a corner, he followed up Roberto Firmino’s looping header home from close but the linesman at the far side rightfully flagged him for offside.
Firmino also came close when he struck into a Palace shirt that sent the ball over before dropping dangerously close to Hennessey’s goal before going out for a corner but the way Palace organised their defence saw Liverpool’s threat nullified inside the area. However, with Palace winless in their last six league matches at home and Liverpool having Salah, it is not entirely surprising if Roy Hodgson’s side conceded an equaliser sooner or later.
That would be sooner. After the restart, Liverpool cranked up their rhythm in a ferocious second-half start and found themselves level. While it was not Salah yet, it was another African in Mane. The Senegalese forward came up with a beat, entered the studio, invited Salah, Firmino and James Milner over to record the chorus part, before finishing the song off in a solo.
Sadio Mané has now scored more Premier League goals (5) against Crystal Palace than any other side; scoring in both games this season.
Something finally goes right. 🙃 pic.twitter.com/VmPG1flRKG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 31, 2018
Wasteful finishing from Benteke
The goal totally put the Reds in tune. Salah almost released Liverpool’s second single when he lobbed one over Hennessey but his effort just missed the top corner. As Liverpool got closer to a winner, Palace tried to capitalise on the Reds’ carelessness at the back. Palace carved two golden chances to restore their lead but their frontman Benteke chose the wrong time to go out of sync.
Milivojevic blocked a Milner pass over to Andros Townsend who nodded it down for Benteke. But the Belgian striker, one on one against Karius, sent a strike wide of the right post. In another, Townsend dispossessed Van Dijk, tore down wide right and fed Benteke inside but the Belgian looped his effort over and missed the target again.
With Palace wasteful but looking more dangerous in the last few minutes, Mane came up with shenanigans in the worst time. Klopp’s side considered themselves lucky when the forward, already on a booking, intentionally handled the ball to halt a promising play by the Eagles. The referee kept his cards in his pocket though and Klopp had the sensibility to chuck Mane off shortly after.
Patrick van Aanholt kept the threat on Karius’ goal with a powerful freekick that Karius parried away but Liverpool eventually got in front again through sheer hard work. Or something like that.
Liverpool seize victory through Salah
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 31, 2018
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain exemplified Liverpool’s industry. The England international embarked on a bruising run down the right before looping a cross into the far corner. Andrew Robertson met the Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross and drilled the ball back across the goal first time where it found Salah. From this point, hard worked disguised itself poetically. The Egyptian international first shaped up beautifully to escape Mamadou Sakho’s attention before smashing a powerful finish past Hennessey.