Crystal Palace 3 Liverpool 1
Liverpool’s last trip to Selhurst Park was marked by a late capitulation that signalled the end of the club’s hopes of winning a first title in 24 years.
Yesterday , their return to south London provided a telling illustration of just how far Brendan Rodgers’ side have fallen in the intervening six months.
Ahead after 91 seconds through Rickie Lambert’s excellently taken goal, Liverpool should have taken advantage of that platform to take control against a Crystal Palace side apparently in freefall after five league games without a win and end their own alarming slide.
That they were unable to take advantage of a perfect start spoke volumes about the lack of confidence amongst Rodgers’ players.
Palace were level within 16 minutes when Dwight Gayle reacted first after Yannick Bolasie’s long-range shot cannoned back off the post. The hosts then capitalised on a succession of defensive errors to establish a 78th minute lead through Joe Ledley. Mile Jedinak’s 81st minute free-kick completed the home side’s victory and ensured the scoreline offered a fair reflection of the game.
Defeat leaves Liverpool in 12th position with just 14 points from their opening 12 games. Rodgers knew this was always going to be a season of transition as he attempted to make up for the loss of Luis Suarez and manage the demands of a return to the Champions League by integrating a number of new faces into his squad.
There were always going to be hiccups but the manager could never have anticipated his evolving team would fail so miserably to match the standards set last season.
There were few positives for the Liverpool manager to take from this display, with his side unable to match their opponents’s commitment and determination. Bolasie, who only arrived back in the country on Friday after scoring twice for DR Congo on Wednesday, in particular proved too elusive for the Liverpool defence and the visitors could offer little by way of response.
Certainly Jamie Carragher, the former Liverpool defender, was alarmed by what he saw. “This is more than just a poor start; there’s something wrong,” said Carragher, speaking in his role as a pundit on Sky Sports. “Something’s not right, they’re getting bullied out of games. At the end of last season, when they came here, we said they were mentally, physically weak — same again. Nothing’s changed.
“No matter £120 million spent on players, Luis Suarez has gone...so what? Suarez has gone. They are still mentally weak, there is no leadership on the pitch. It has been going on all season. And Liverpool aren’t getting beat by quality, they’re getting bullied, and as I said they’re getting beaten by enthusiasm from Crystal Palace.”
Rodgers highlighted his side’s lack of confidence and insisted it was his responsibility to get things right. He also accepted that his own position will come under scrutiny if results don’t improve. “I’m not arrogant enough to think that I will be in a job through anything,” said the manager.
“Any manager will tell you, that you have to win games and you have to get results, especially after how we’ve been developing as a football club. But I have a great communication line with the owners. We’ve been honest enough with each other, but ultimately you have to get results. You have to perform.
“In my first year when we weren’t maybe getting the results, we were performing well. Owners and directors and chairmen and chief executives have to see development on the field. Barring this period, our development has been very good and fast. But there’s no doubt as a manager, you have to get results.”
There looked to be no cause for concern when Lambert collected Adam Lallana’s lofted pass and slotted past Julian Speroni but after Gayle levelled, Liverpool offered little. Palace forced their way ahead when Bolasie lifted the ball over Dejan Lovren before squaring for Ledley to place the ball beyond Simon Mignolet from six yards out. Jedinak then curled a fine free-kick into the top corner after Martin Skrtel had fouled Gayle.
“I think we’d have done that to most teams today,” said Neil Warnock, the Palace manager. “That’s just this league in general. If you take anyone lightly, you can get turned over. I think they were determined, you could see that the way they started. But we could have had six or seven more points after playing some good stuff so far, and today we took our chances and got our rewards. We played some really good stuff and looked well organised and difficult to break down.”
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-2-3-1): Speroni 6; Kelly 6, Delaney 7 (Hangeland 35, 7), Dann 7, Ward 7; Jedinak 8, Ledley 8; Bolasie 9 (Bannan 85,6), Chamakh 7, Puncheon 7 (McArthur 76, 6); Gayle 8.
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Mignolet 5; Manquillo 3, Skrtel 5, Lovren 4, Johnson 4; Gerrard 5, Allen 6 (Can 74,6); Lallana 5 (Borini 72,5), Coutinho 5, Sterling 5; Lambert 6.
Referee: J Moss
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