Liverpool’s top opponent? Themselves

Crystal Palace 2 Liverpool 4: Liverpool as champions? Dejan Lovren admitted the victory at Selhurst Park supported the case both for and against the title returning to Anfield for the first time since 1990.

Liverpool’s top opponent? Themselves

Exposed too easily at the back, Jurgen Klopp’s side were at times irresistible going forward, showcasing qualities that have made them arguably the most entertaining of the contenders in this season’s Premier League title race. Little wonder Lovren admitted when it comes to their prospects this season, “our biggest opponent is us”.

Lovren summed up the two sides of this performance, committing the error that allowed James McArthur to cancel out Emre Can’s opening goal before immediately restoring the lead with a header. The Croatian’s reaction was impressive, as was that of Klopp’s side against obstinate opponents in a game that only assumed a measure of calm after Roberto Firmino gave the visitors a two-goal lead midway through the second half.

Ultimately it was another impressive away win that offered a contrast to Liverpool’s other successes this season against higher ranking sides. “If you want to be in the top four at the end of the season or be champion, you need to win the smaller games like today and even the next game against Watford,” said Lovren, the centre-back.

“And then we will see against the big teams. But I think we have shown this year we can play against the big teams, we are not scared. It’s just....I think the biggest opponent for us is us.”

That was certainly the case for Lovren after he spooned an 18th minute back-pass into the path of McArthur. “I was angry. I was definitely angry,” said defender when asked about his reaction to scoring moments after that error. “The lads asked me in the dressing room ‘what did you want to do when you scored the goal’. I said I wanted to jump into the crowd. I didn’t know what to do, because I would say I didn’t deserve this. I said to myself it’s not possible, I am working too hard to do a mistake and to lose the game.”

McArthur’s second header again drew Palace level but Joel Matip restored Liverpool’s lead immediately before the break and Firmino secured the points after Palace had a convincing claim for a penalty rejected. Relief, then, for Klopp who could be satisfied the attacking strength provided of Philippe Coutinho, Firmino, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana had made up for flaws elsewhere in his side.

“We play this way because the best kind of defending is keeping the ball,” said the manager. “It’s quite logical. When you have these boys it makes sense.”

Coutinho in particular stood out and Lovren believes the Brazilian is demonstrating himself to be the outstanding player in the league this season. “I have the pleasure to play with this guy,” said the defender.

“He is playing for Brazil as well. He is a main part of the team, but like I said, it’s not an individual thing, it’s the team work today. It is the team that won, not just one player. When a team works really well then this individual comes out and I think today was Philippe Coutinho.”

Like Liverpool, Palace were guilty of making a succession of costly mistakes and a third successive defeat means they travel to Burnley next weekend anxious to prevent a dip in form turning into something worse.

“We need to this week work on our defensive play and not conceding is a big thing for us,” said McArthur. “More and more pressure is on us with each game we don’t win. But there is belief in the changing room we can go to Burnley and get a result and from there it hasn’t been a bad start to the season. We can do that.

“Pressure is part and parcel of being a footballer.”

CRYSTAL PALACE (4-2-3-1):

Mandanda 7; Ward 5, Dann 4, Tomkins 4, Kelly 6; Cabaye 5, Ledley 6 (Puncheon 74,6); Zaha 6, McArthur 8 (Campbell 86, 6), Lee 6 (Townsend 66, 6); Benteke 7.

Subs not used:

Hennessey, Flamini, Fryers, Delaney.

LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1):

Karius 6; Clyne 6, Matip 6, Lovren 5, Moreno 7; Can 7, Henderson 8; Mane 5 (Origi 89), Lallana 7 (Wijnaldum 75), Coutinho 9; Firmino 8.

Subs not used:

Mignolet, Sturridge, Klavan, Lucas, Randall.

Referee:

Andre Marriner 6

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