Jurgen Klopp's Reds remain on course to become Anfield legends
Liverpool verdict - Jurgen Klopp's Reds remain on course to become Anfield legends after Crystal Palace victory
James Pearce watches Liverpool turn the clock back to last season in a chaotic victory over Crystal Palace at Anfield
By James Pearce
19:20, 19 JAN 2019
The scenes after the final whistle spoke volumes.
A pumped up Jurgen Klopp embraced his captain before delivering a flurry of fist pumps in front of the Kop and beating his chest. Anfield let out a collective roar.
Liverpool had emerged unscathed from a rollercoaster afternoon to move seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
There were more twists and turns than a Hollywood blockbuster as the Reds overcame a major scare to keep their title charge on track . You could hear the groans coming from Manchester.
On the day when Liverpool honoured the legendary Bob Paisley, Klopp's side also delivered a nod to the past. This was a throwback to their previous guise when they were potent going forward but horribly vulnerable at the other end.
Andros Townsend gave Crystal Palace the lead before a crazy, chaotic second half laced with drama.
Two quickfire goals from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino appeared to have put Liverpool in control but James Tomkins' header restored parity.
Julian Speroni's blunder enabled Salah to make it 3-2 but the nerves were jangling again after James Milner was sent off for a second booking.
Sadio Mane eased the tension by slotting home in stoppage time, only for substitute Max Meyer to crank it straight back up again. Hearts were pounding but the hosts held on.
Talk about being put through the wringer. Much more of this and Liverpool will have to start issuing Valium with the match tickets.
You could pick plenty of holes in such an erratic performance but all that matters is that Klopp's men found a way to win.
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (centre) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with team-mates Henrique Fabinho (left) and Mohamed Salah (Image: Darren Staples/PA Wire)
When the pressure was cranked up, they refused to buckle. Instead they stood tall and showcased their powers of recovery.
The character and hunger of this side is just as impressive as their quality and work ethic.
Roy Hodgson was no stranger to defeats at Anfield during his disastrous spell as Reds boss. But, remarkably, this was the first time he had lost in L4 as a visiting boss having won with West Brom and achieved draws with both Blackburn and Fulham.
The contrast between the mess Hodgson left behind eight years ago and what Klopp has created is absolutely vast. Where Hodgson alienated supporters and dampened expectations at every turn, Klopp has galvanised a fanbase and given them the belief that they are on the cusp of something truly special.
With 60 points, Liverpool have never been in better shape after 23 matches of a league campaign. Their current tally is one more than this stage in 1893/94 and 1987/88.
The players' warm weather trip to the Middle East is richly deserved. The 11-day break before Leicester City visit Anfield comes at a good time with so many injury concerns.
Fabinho limped off against Palace with discomfort in his hamstring and if he's facing a spell out that would be a major blow. The influence of the Brazilian midfielder continues to grow. He shone once again after being restored to his usual role.
With Trent Alexander-Arnold and Gini Wijnaldum both sidelined, Klopp had been forced into a reshuffle with Milner deputising at right-back and Joel Matip returning at centre-back.
The other change wasn't expected with Naby Keita preferred to Xherdan Shaqiri. In truth it didn't work with Keita struggling badly during a disjointed opening 45 minutes.
Being stationed on the left of Klopp's 4-2-3-1 formation did him no favours, but the Guinea international didn't help himself as he was weak both with and without the ball.
Predictably, Liverpool dominated possession but they did precious little with it before the break.
Palace’s game plan worked a treat as they sat deep, defended in numbers and then hit the Reds on the counter with the pace of Townsend and Wilfried Zaha down the flanks.
Matip was thwarted by Speroni after latching on to Milner's pass but the 39-year-old stand-in keeper wasn't tested often enough.
Roberto Firmino curled over and Mane's header was easy for Speroni as the Reds continued to huff and puff.
Matip and Virgil van Dijk threatened from set-pieces but Liverpool were stunned by Palace making the breakthrough 11 minutes before the interval. Zaha darted past Milner and his pull back was slammed home by Townsend.
With Mamadou Sakho then getting away with handling in the box, the sense of unease inside Anfield continued to grow.
Two goals in the opening eight minutes of the second half transformed the mood as Liverpool played with much greater tempo and intensity.
Van Dijk's long-range strike looped up after hitting James McArthur and Salah made a tricky finish look ridiculously easy as he hooked it in.
Then Firmino was allowed to turn and he darted away from Tomkins before his low strike deflected off Cheikhou Kouyate and into the bottom corner. It was Liverpool's 1,000 goal at Anfield in the Premier League era.
Captain Jordan Henderson led by example as he thundered into tackles with Milner and Andy Robertson equally combative.
Yet the usual calmness, composure and control we've come to associate with this team was conspicuous by its absence.
Some shoddy marking enabled Palace to equalise midway through the second half. It was far too easy as Tomkins climbed to convert Townsend's corner.
Klopp took action with the ineffective Keita replaced by Shaqiri. Within four minutes of making the change the Reds' lead had been restored.
Fabinho's searching pass was expertly turned back across goal by Milner and Speroni inexplicably palmed it towards his own net.
Salah pounced and forced the ball over the line to make it 19 goals for the season in all competitions and strengthen his grip on the race for the Golden Boot.
Once again Palace rallied with Jeffrey Schlupp flashing a header wide. The visitors were given a numerical advantage late on when Milner collected two yellows in quick succession – both for chopping down Zaha. The vice-captain could have no complaints.
Liverpool's fourth goal was testament to Robertson's never-say-die spirit as he brilliantly kept the ball in play and teed up Mane, who cut in off the left and slotted past Speroni.
When Meyer then halved the deficit, it was back in the melting pot for an excruciating final few seconds.
From Kenny Dalglish to Graeme Souness, Ian Callaghan to Jimmy Case, cherished names were out in force on a day when tributes were paid to Paisley and former Reds winger Peter Thompson.
Klopp's current crop remain bang on course to join them in the pantheon of Anfield legends.
Liverpool: Alisson, Milner, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho (Lallana 87), Keita (Shaqiri 71), Mane, Firmino, Salah (Camacho 90+4)
Not used: Mignolet, Moreno, Sturridge, Origi
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Kouyate (Schlupp 75), McArthur (Meyer 81), Townsend, Ayew (Wickham 81), Zaha.
Not used: Tupper, Dann, Benteke, Kelly.
Referee: Jon Moss
Goals: Townsend 34, Salah 46, Firmino 53, Tomkins 65, Salah 75, Mane 90+2, Meyer 90+4.
Bookings: Ayew, Milner
Red cards: Milner (second yellow)
Man of the match: Fabinho. Growing in stature with every passing week.
Liverpool player ratings vs Crystal Palace - Jordan Henderson outstanding but Naby Keita disappears in vital win
Ian Doyle runs the rule over Liverpool's performance in battling victory over Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace
Alisson Becker 6
Picked the ball out of the net three times and otherwise would have been cold on a chilly Anfield afternoon.
James Milner 6
Going forward proved a constant outlet on the right and he assisted the third. Defensively, though, he was regularly outfoxed by the excellent Zaha, but could have done with more protection. Sent off for two yellows on, yes, Zaha.
Joel Matip 7
Calm – just about – when Palace threatened second half,and had Liverpool's two best chances before the break with a shot smothered by Speroni and a header wide.
Virgil van Dijk 7
Put a decent header wide from a set-piece first half. Defensively was untroubled, and his deflected shot prompted the equaliser.
Andy Robertson 7
Wasn't quite given the room he normally enjoys and was kept honest by Townsend. More involved going forward second half and played in Mane for what turned out to be the winner.
Busy early on but lost his way a little bit before the break. Came again in the second half but was unlucky to be blocked off for the Palace equaliser.
Jordan Henderson 9
Outstanding performance from the skipper who kept Liverpool moving during a testing first half and then provided the impetus after the break and put in shift defensively too.
Sadio Mane 7
Shifted to the right at the start, he barely had a touch early on and took an age to get going. Better after the break and, when on the left, took his goal so well.
Roberto Firmino 7
Dropped a bit too deep at times but some of his footwork caught the eye. Curled one over first half and scored the deflected second.
Naby Keita 5
Showed promise with some early touches but, not helped by being on the left, faded badly then disappeared completely on being substituted.
Mohamed Salah 7
Hit the deck a bit too easily at one point which infuriated Sakho, but produced a great finish for the equaliser and was on hand to knock in the third.
Xherdan Shaqiri (for Keita 72) 6
Helped Liverpool more defensively down the right than anything else.
Adam Lallana (for Fabinho 87)
Rafa Camacho (for Salah 90+4)
What a game in which to make your Premier League debut.
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