Crystal Palace end Klopp’s Kop honeymoon

Liverpool 1 Crystal Palace 2: STEVEN Gerrard missed Back to the Future celebrations by a matter of days but there was an overwhelming feeling of deja vu around Anfield as the former Liverpool captain was on hand to see Scott Dann’s late header inflict the first defeat on his beloved club since Jurgen Klopp took over.
Crystal Palace end Klopp’s Kop honeymoon

In May, Alan Pardew’s team ruined Gerrard’s Anfield farewell by recording only their second ever victory at the famous old stadium. Just six months on, they had a third.

Dann brushed aside the half-hearted attentions of his marker Firmino eight minutes from time to meet Yohan Cabaye’s corner with a powerful header which Simon Mignolet initially did well to keep out. But the rebound fell to the Palace defender who made no mistake at the second attempt, nodding past the stranded Liverpool goalkeeper.

Thus it was a local boy and lifelong Liverpool fan who provided a swift, sharp taste of reality for members of the Anfield nation who have been embroiled in a love-at-first-sight relationship with their German manager, especially on the back of three consecutive victories in three different competitions.

“After 82 minutes, I saw so many people leave the stadium, I felt pretty alone at that moment,” said Klopp.

“We decide when it is over. Between 82 and 94 minutes, you can score eight goals if you want but you have to work for it.

“I’m not disappointed with the fans. We have to learn that we are responsible and with 82 minutes gone, nobody can leave the stadium.

“A minute before the final whistle, anything can happen and that is what we have to show the fans. We didn’t. Tonight it feels so bad because it was not necessary to lose that game tonight.”

All the more unnecessary given the manner in which they fought back and, indeed, looked on course for victory after Philippe Coutinho had equalised Yannick Bolasie’s opener just before the break.

Liverpool, unbeaten in six games under their new manager, started nervously, with Palace dominating possession, and fell behind after 20 minutes.

Wilfried Zaha’s low right-wing cross should have been cleared by Emre Can who, instead, steered the ball straight to Bolasie 12 yards out. The Palace forward turned and made no mistake with a lethal finish into the bottom corner.

Falling behind at least breathed life and urgency into the home team, and Damien Delaney was soon forced into a strong block to keep out Jordan Ibe’s powerful shot, Martin Skrtel’s header was clawed off his line by keeper Wayne Hennessey and Adam Lallana did well to pull the ball back for Christian Benteke who miskicked from six yards.

Finally, in the 41st minute, came a goal well worth waiting for, at least as far as Gerrard and the home supporters were concerned. Lallana and Ibe linked neatly outside the area to send full-back Nathaniel Clyne towards the by-line and, after Lallana had back-heeled his cross into the path of Coutinho, the Brazilian buried an unstoppable shot past the diving Hennessey.

By that stage, Liverpool had been forced into a defensive reshuffle after Mamadou Sakho twisted his knee badly, leaving Klopp to confess he faces an anxious wait to discover the extent of the damage. Replacement Dejan Lovren saw two headed efforts cleared off the Palace line before the interval.

After it, the home side maintained their superiority in possession, while looking susceptible to the counter-attack, with Bakary Sako wasteful with a shot into the side-netting and Jason Puncheon’s well-struck 20-yard shot drawing a fine, diving stop from the alert Mignolet.

In a late charge, Liverpool substitute Firmino did well to create room for himself in a crowded Palace area after 74 minutes but his shot, from 16 yards, deflected behind harmlessly. After the winner, Coutinho saw Hennessey pull off a fingertip save from his long-range effort while the keeper smothered a dangerous near-post shot from Alberto Moreno.

Ultimately, Pardew and Palace would not be denied and while Gerrard would not have enjoyed his Anfield return, another lifelong Liverpool fan most certainly did.

“Scott had about 15 family members here today, he was asking for tickets off everybody,” said Pardew of his match winner. “The goal summed him up. He was going to win that ball, nobody was going to stop him.

“I really think he has been underestimated through his career. I wouldn’t have said that until I managed him but now I have, I understand how good he is. The problem with this whole team is it doesn’t trust how good it could be.”

LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1):

Mignolet 5; Clyne 7, Skrtel 6, Sakho 5 (Lovren 40, 7), Moreno 6; Lucas 7, Can 5 (Firmino 65, 6); Ibe 9 (Origi 87), Lallana 7, Coutinho 8; Benteke 6.

CRYSTAL PALACE (4-4-2):

Hennessey 7; Kelly 7, Dann 6, Delaney 6, Souare 6; Zaha 9, McArthur 7, Cabaye 8 (Mutch 87), Puncheon 7 (Ledley 79, 6); Sako 5 (Wickham 64, 6), Bolasie 7.

Referee:

Neil Swarbrick 7

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