Liverpool’s dreadful run of form continues at a dreary Selhurst Park as lowly Crystal Palace inflict a fourth successive defeat…
In the absence of first-choice strikers Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli, Brendan Rodgers handed Rickie Lambert a rare start up front.
In addition to their struggles in finding the net, one of the most noticeable differences between last season and this so far has been Liverpool’s lacklustre starts.
However, for a second consecutive game, they managed to successfully turn back the clock and take an early lead as Lambert slotted home following an excellent pass by Adam Lallana.
It was an emotional moment for the Scouser, who had drifted off former-Reds defender Martin Kelly to score his first goal since returning to his boyhood club in the summer.
Palace responded well to falling behind and forced some nervy moments amongst Liverpool’s backline.
The visitors were not helped by having to play for a lengthy period with ten men after Joe Allen sustained a head wound that needed some considerable patching-up.
It was during Allen’s second visit to the sidelines to sort the problem out that Palace suddenly equalised when Dwight Gayle tucked home a rebound after Yannick Bolasie’s rocket from distance had struck a post.
Even when the Merseysiders were restored to their full compliment of players, the hosts were now looking a real threat with their physicality and directness, coupled with Gayle’s pace in behind, proving a potent combination.
At the other end, Lambert was wrongly flagged for off-side when in a promising position but generally, other than the early goal, the men in yellow had created nothing.
An excellent Steven Gerrard free-kick almost changed all that in the 28th minute but an off-balance Lambert could only head over.
For Palace, Bolasie continued to provide plenty of problems as a diving Simon Mignolet managed to claw away his latest effort.
Liverpool finally began to play some better football around the half-hour mark and they almost retook the lead when an excellent counter-attack, involving Lambert and Allen, ended with the England forward heading wide at the far post.
Eagles boss Neil Warnock had to make a change soon afterwards when Damien Delaney pulled-up – Brede Hangeland the man to come on.
A muted penalty shout quickly followed as a Raheem Sterling cross struck Kelly’s arm before the attack ended with Gerrard firing wildly over.
Liverpool were almost caught out twice as half-time approached when their own attacks broke down and Bolasie raced away but thankfully for Rodgers and co. the DR Congo international failed to capitalise on the promising positions.
A lively start to the second 45 minutes saw the visitors in the ascendency as Gerrard hit a free-kick wide and Martin Skrtel failed to find the target after a corner somehow fell to him.
Palace, although now attacking more sporadically and often through the use of long-balls, continued to look dangerous on the counter and from set-pieces.
A period of sustained pressure from the hosts arrived around the hour mark but failed to force Mignolet into a save of note.
The Belgium international’s opposite number, Julian Speroni, almost helped Liverpool restore their lead in the 70th minute when failing to hold a Glen Johnson cross but the ball broke fortuitously to a team mate.
Seconds later and full-back Javier Manquillo should have obliged but the Spaniard got his angled attempt completely wrong following excellent approach play from Philippe Coutinho and Sterling.
The contest was really opening up now and Rodgers chucked on Fabio Borini and Emre Can in search of a potentially crucial next goal.
It followed almost instantly but perhaps slightly surprisingly it was Palace who delivered after an awful Mignolet free-kick had gone straight out of play and handed them possession.
From the resulting throw-on, Bolasie got the better of Dejan Lovren far too easily down the right and his pull-back was tucked home by the on-rushing Joe Ledley.
It was a devastating sucker-punch and worse was to follow as an unstoppable free-kick from captain Mile Jedinak curled into the top corner.
With the game now in the final ten minutes, a late Liverpool fight-back never looked like materialising and so it was to prove despite half-chances for Gerrard and Borini.
Another incredibly depressing afternoon. It was far from the worse performance of the season but once again we were out-fought by a supposedly inferior opposition and not a single player can totally absorb themselves of blame. Whenever we come up against a direct and physical opponent the outcome is always the same and today we also struggled to contain the individual pace offered by Bolasie and Gayle. A poor pitch and awful conditions cannot even be offered as legitimate excuses.
It begs the questions; how many more times do the likes of Mignolet and Lovren have to make crucial individual errors before they are dropped? How much longer will mainstays such as Gerrard and Johnson seemingly be guaranteed places despite being so badly out of sorts?
The lack of confidence that emanated from the defence has now spread throughout the entire team and sadly it’s badly affecting the likes of Sterling and Coutinho and we are offering increasingly little as an attacking entity. Luck has clearly deserted us as well and the equaliser would probably have been averted had Allen not been off the field.
On this showing we will be out of the Champions League on Wednesday night and there is absolutely no chance of returning next season. The pressure is mounting on Rodgers and even I am running out of positives and can find no glimmer of hope to cling to at this moment in time.
Joe Allen – When he was on the field, Allen worked harder than anyone and always tried to make himself available (although that’s not saying much). Should not have been substituted.
Mignolet, Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Johnson, Gerrard, Allen (Can 74′), Lallana (Borini 72′), Coutinho, Sterling, Lambert.
Unused subs: Jones, Toure, Moreno, Lucas, Markovic.
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