The first Monday night game of the season came under the lights at Selhurst Park, as the Reds of Liverpool traveled south to face Crystal Palace. The last time Liverpool were at Selhurst on a Monday night, the hosts left a Uruguayan in tears, and the visitors’ title hopes all but over. With both teams winning their opening games, the stage was set for another exciting night in South London.
Crystal Palace – 442 – Hennessey, Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt, Townsend (Ward 79’), Milivojević, McArthur, Schlupp (Meyer 83‘), Benteke (Sørloth 70’), Zaha
Liverpool – 433 – Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson, Milner (Henderson 67’), Wijnaldum, Keita (Lallana 87’), Salah, Firmino (Sturridge 90+4’), Mane
The game started out how most would have expected, Liverpool controlling the ball, passing it around with relative ease, while Palace repelled any attack the Reds would attempt. There were some fascinating duels across the pitch; Zaha/Alexander-Arnold, Salah/van Aanholt, Townsend/Robertson, but the most exciting was definitely Mane against Wan-Bissaka. The Senegalese winger continuously drove at the Palace backline, and the young right-back would manage to catch him, diving in several times with well-timed slide tackles to prevent Mane from causing too much damage.
The visitors certainly had the better of the chances to begin with. Keita intercepted a poor Sakho clearance, but van Aanholt managed to just nick the ball ahead of a waiting Salah, who would have been alone in the box with Hennessey. The ball did end up in the net a couple of minutes later as Alexander-Arnold’s cross was spilled by the Palace keeper, and dribbled over the line. However, it was pulled back for a foul because of Mane and Wan-Bissaka colliding with him as he went to catch it.
The new Liverpool no.8 has certainly settled in well in Merseyside; there was one fine example of his talent as he turned Townsend on the edge of his own box. He then strode forward with the ball before chipping it over the Palace defence where an on-rushing Salah controlled it but put a little too much loft onto his shot as it went over the keeper and bar.
The closest the hosts came to breaking the deadlock was a speculative thirty-yard curling shot from the foot of Townsend, but he could only see his effort crash back off the cross bar. Zaha then saw his reactionary volley deflected wide for a corner that was easily collected by Alisson.
Then a few minutes before the half-time whistle blew, the moment the visiting fans had been waiting for arrived. Salah tried to find space in the box for a shot but was caught by the extended leg of Mamadou Sakho, and although he fell down ‘in stages’ as the commentator put it, it was certainly a penalty. Salah almost looked apologetic to the Palace players that surrounded him and the ref, but none of that fazed James Milner who coolly slotted the ball past Hennessey to put Liverpool one nil up going into the break.
The hosts came out in the second half a lot better than the first, actually having 65% of the possession in the first quarter of an hour of the second period. However, it was still Liverpool who were having the better chances. Robertson found Salah wide open in the middle of the park with a cross field through ball that left him one-on-one with the keeper. Unfortunately for him, his touch was just too hard as it went wide of the goal. He did manage to keep it in and find Keita in the box, but his scuffed shot went wide of the other post.
On the whole, the Liverpool defence kept Wilf Zaha quiet. He had one driving run which led to him drawing a foul from Alexander-Arnold. The resulting free-kick from Milivojevic was superbly saved by the Brazilian no.1, as he curled it round the wall and headed for the top right-hand corner. Alisson would go on to make a few more saves, as Benteke rose above everyone to force his header down on goal, but the Brazilian stopper was up to the task. Zaha’s low drive was much easier, as it was driven straight at him.
Then, with 15 minutes left, a huge moment came in the game. Salah was once again played through one-on-one with the keeper. The Palace fullback, Wan-Bissaka, raced after him, catching him with every stride. As he lunged in, the Egyptian knocked the ball to the right, looking to go around Hennessey, but was prevented from doing so as Wan-Bissaka’s touch brought the Liverpool man down on the edge of the box. The youngster was the last man, and it was a straight red card from Michael Oliver. Nothing came from the resulting free-kick, as Salah could only find the head of Tomkins in the wall, as the sound of applause from the Palace fans echoed around Selhurst in appreciation for what had been another outstanding performance, up until the red card, from Wan-Bissaka.
Neither side sat back in the closing stages, as both looked to grab a goal before the end. Salah again came close with a header tipped over the bar by the Welsh international, and Zaha’s drilled cross evaded everyone in the box, and away to safety. However, if there’s one thing Liverpool do better than anyone else, its counter attacking. Palace had a corner in injury time, but as it cleared it fell to the Egyptian with just van Aanholt and Mane for company. He slipped to ball through to his teammate, who had the freedom of the Palace half. Mane out-muscled the Dutchman as he struggled to get back, keeping his balance to round Hennessey and slot the ball into the empty net.
The final whistle blew, and Liverpool had won their opening two fixtures for the first time under Klopp, to go into second place behind Manchester City.
Man of the Match – Virgil van Dijk
Next time out, Palace are involved in their second London derby of the season, as they travel to face an inform Watford side. Liverpool welcome a Brighton side, who have had mixed results so far; losing to Bournemouth, but then beating Liverpool’s bitter rivals Manchester United at the Amex.