It may have come under controversial circumstances, but Liverpool picked up three massive points in South London earlier today as late drama at Selhurst Park saw Crystal Palace miss out on their first win of 2016 with as a late penalty kept their now infamous winless streak alive.
Alan Pardew’s side capitalized on the visitors fragility at set-pieces early in the second half Joe Ledley got on the end of Damien Delaney’s deflected strike to drive home from the edge of the box. Things went from bad to worse for the Reds when James Milner was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow just past the hour mark, but Alex McCarthy handed Jurgen Klopp’s boys a lifeline when he slipped during a routine clearance. The rolled directly to Roberto Firmino and the Brazilian had more than enough time to take a touch and settle his feet before finishing confidently beyond the English ‘keeper.
After taking Manchester City to penalties in the League Cup final last weekend and absolutely decimating the Citizens midweek, Liverpool looked to do the very much Liverpool thing by following things up by struggling against Palace, but it appeared that their hosts weren’t about to have any of that and in the dying seconds when Christian Benteke was sent clear Delaney did the rash thing by going to ground as he chased the Reds hit-man. To be fair, it didn’t look like much as the Irishman pulled out of the challenge, but as his knee clipped the heels of the big man, he could only watch on as the Belgian tumbled to the ground.
A stutter-step saw McCarthy play his hand early, leaving Benteke a wide open net and the 25-year old was more than happy to roll the ball into the far corner for not only his first goal of the calendar year, but the match winner as well. At Selhurst Park, that doesn’t happen all too often…
“I think he touched me otherwise I don’t go down,” said the Liverpool striker, quizzed immediately following the final whistle over whether contact was made. “The referee knows better than us and he took the right decision,” continued the big man, quick to back referee Andre Marriner and his assistants. “You have to be ready when the manager needs you and I tried to do my best today,” explained the Belgian, before adding, “I believe in myself and I am going to fight until the end, I have no doubt about it.”
One could argue this sees the tides turn for the Reds, but to be fair, it was hardly the kind of match you expected us to get anything from — let alone win. Prior to Milner’s dismissal, I struggle to think of a single situation where the visitors truly troubled the Palace net and chances for Emmanuel Adebayor, who hit the crossbar early on, and Yannick Bolasie, who was half a step off of a great opportunity only to lose out to a brave Simon Mignolet, would have gone the other way on any other trip to South London. You could argue that the stars aligned just right or that crazy old game of football is a crazy old game, but I’ll put it down to Klopp and the impact he’s had on the side.
I’m still amused when I see people arguing on social media over whether or not the German has had any effect since taking the reigns back in October. Considering he’s been here for less than a year, all of the “facts” being cited come from such a small sampling of matches that points per game or goals per game ratios aren’t real accurate reflections of a swing one way or the other; there are so many factors that come in to play that raw statistics don’t tell the tale. What I can tell you is that since Klopp was put in charge, he’s got a goal or an assist from a substitute on eight different occasions and we’ve come from a losing position to get at least something from a match on nine times — and today, remember, we were a man down.
That’s the kind of response you want from a team chasing a top four finish. We’re very much into the business end of the campaign and we’re sitting six points off of a Champions League place with ten games left to play and a very precious match in hand. If Leicester City can win the league, surely we have a fair shot of sneaking up the table and into a European spot…