After Liverpool’s week, Jürgen Klopp will be glad it’s over. A nervy performance after the embarrassment against Real Madrid in the Champions League was perhaps to be expected, but Klopp will be grateful for Crystal Palace’s waste of squandering a host of opportunities that were handed to them on a platter by some, at times, defending slapstick way in the first half.
Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular had a torrid opening in the 45th minute when Jean-Philippe Mateta squandered two golden opportunities for Patrick Vieira’s side to register their first win of 2023 at the ninth attempt. Liverpool improved slightly after the break, with Mohamed Salah hitting the post, but they will have to improve significantly to salvage anything from this campaign.
Klopp urged his players to “fight back” after the 5-2 defeat at Anfield midweek which realistically ended any chance of silverware this season. With Tottenham just seven points clear in fourth ahead of their trip to south London, the Liverpool manager knew this was his opportunity to regain some of the momentum from back-to-back wins against Everton and Newcastle.
While Darwin Núñez, still injured in the shoulder contracted last week, was not included in the squad, Joël Matip, James Milner, Naby Keïta and Diogo Jota returned to the starting line-up. Palace were unchanged after conceding two points against Brentford last weekend, with Wilfried Zaha still not recovered from a hamstring injury and Eberechi Eze left on the bench despite his goal.
The latest win on New Year’s Eve against Bournemouth was also the last time Palace faced opposition in the bottom half of the table, as Vieira’s side drew with Manchester United, Newcastle and Brighton. However, having seen Liverpool’s struggles against Madrid, they must have imagined their chances against low-confidence opponents, despite not beating Liverpool since an away win in April 2017.
A dreadful back pass from Alexander-Arnold after a mix-up with Matip was the first evidence of the uncertainty hanging over Liverpool’s defense these days, although this time they got away with it as Alisson rushed in to deny Mateta. Jota fired straight past Vicente Guaita after a promising move by Liverpool and Andy Robertson hit the post from a tight angle before Alisson was hugely relieved to see the assistant raise the flag after his poor shot gave away possession.
Only inches separated Palace captain Marc Guéhi from giving his side the lead, heading wide from Michael Olise’s free-kick after a non-existent save. Liverpool’s luck was all but summed up when Jordan Henderson inadvertently fumbled Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick and the ball went harmlessly off target.
A sumptuous cross from Olise that was begging to be headed in somehow eluded Mateta, Jeffrey Schlupp and Tyrick Mitchell with Alexander-Arnold nowhere to be seen. The English defender’s error-plagued midfield continued as he fumbled the ball to Schlupp inside the penalty area, but again Mateta couldn’t make him pay as he somehow hit the post from just six yards out.
Somehow Alexander-Arnold was not withdrawn at half-time, although Klopp turned to Harvey Elliott to replace the ineffective Keïta. Alexander-Arnold’s first act of the second half was to block Schlupp’s header with the back of his head, but it was his cross that eventually led to Salah’s shot hitting the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area. A hard-hitting effort that forced Guaita to make a save was another promising moment for Liverpool, who at least looked to be pushing harder as Elliott buzzed in midfield.
Alexander-Arnold’s night came to an end when he was substituted for Fabinho 20 minutes from time before Cody Gakpo and Salah spurned a good chance on the break to win late on. For all their cursing in the closing stages, Palace failed to create another noteworthy chance despite the addition of Eze and Odsonne Édouard as their quest for victory continues.