Liverpool recorded a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park to not only claim their first Premier League win of the season in London, but demonstrate just how well-stocked their squad is to deal with the absence of key players.
Liverpool supporters will have definitely noticed the absences of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane due to the African Cup of Nations, but neutrals won’t have. Jurgen Klopp’s side have performed brilliantly over the last few matches without their star attackers which highlights that there is more to the Reds than their clinical attackers.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson’s outstanding attacking abilities have been universal for some time, but both have really stepped up to the plate in the absence of their side’s biggest goal threats and they have both helped guide the team to some excellent results in recent weeks. Robertson in particular this afternoon turned in a stellar performance, as he assisted both of his side’s goals and always looked dangerous when he burst forward.
Also in their absence, the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino have stepped up to help fill the void that they have left. Both have performed admirably which just highlights how well-coached this squad is. Even Diogo Jota has been a standout star for Klopp in the absence of his usual front three partners and he just keeps on improving with each game he plays for the club.
There was real concern for them with key players going away for AFCON, but as Klopp has shown time and again, his players are capable to deliver to his high standards and although they have closed the gap to nine points behind leaders Manchester City after this win, they still have a game in hand and continue to chase Pep Guardiola’s side. The Reds are surely the only team that can prevent City scooping a fourth Premier League title in five years, and we must not forget that the best two teams in the country must still face each other in April. The title race is still on.
At Selhurst Park, they faced a tough test and needed a controversial penalty to secure all three points, but they got off to a flying start. The visitors imposed themselves quickly on the game as Robertson had an opening to shoot on the edge of the box but he blazed his effort over the bar. The Reds were knocking on the door early as Jordan Henderson was next in line to have an effort, which forced Vicente Guaita to make a low save.
Liverpool broke the deadlock moments later as Virgil van Dijk powered home a header from a corner as the hosts looked vulnerable at the back early on. They should have doubled their lead when Fabinho was teed up at the edge of the area but he also fired over the bar.
They bided their time but the Reds doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark and Robertson was the creator again. From the left he perfectly picked out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who rifled the ball home from close-range, yet from that point onwards - it was a tough battle for Liverpool that the scoreline does not reflect.
The Eagles had a great chance to pull one back after the tenacious Conor Gallagher won the ball back in Liverpool’s half, but when he got the ball back in the box, he couldn’t get a shot away. It seemed to spark his side into life, though, as not long after Michael Olise latched onto a risky pass by Joel Matip, but his effort was saved by Alisson. The youngster then played an excellent pass through to Jean-Philippe Mateta, who rounded Alisson, but his effort was cleared out the way by Matip.
Patrick Vieira’s side came out fighting in the second-half, looking to build on their momentum from the end of the first, confident they could get something from the match. They pulled one back inside 10 minutes as Odsonne Edouard had a simple tap-in thanks to an excellent defence-splitting pass by Jeffrey Schlupp in the build-up. Later in the half, Olise came close to levelling the scoreline as he tried to loop the ball over Alisson with an audacious chip, but the Brazilian did well to parry the ball away from goal.
However, the game was put to bed as Liverpool were awarded a very controversial VAR penalty, when Jota collided with Guaita. Initially the referee didn’t give it, a decision even Jamie Carragher agreed with, but VAR told him to look at the monitor and overturn it, to everybody’s dismay. Fabinho fired home to wrap up the game, and Liverpool went marching on. Watch out Man City, Salah and Mane could return by the time Klopp’s men play again in the league.