Crystal Palace 3 #Liverpool 1
It was yet another bad day at the office for Brendan Rodgers and his expensively assembled squad at Selhurst Park on Sunday, as they squandered an early lead to ultimately suffer their third straight #Premier League defeat in a row, as Crystal Palace came from behind to beat them 3-1. They now face a tricky away trip to play Bulgarian side Ludogorets in the Champions League on Wednesday, in what has become a must win game to stay in the competition and also (one feels) for the sake of confidence in the manager.
With Daniel Sturridge back on the treatment bench and unlikely to feature this side of the New Year and Mario Balotelli picking up an injury while away on international duty with Italy, Rodgers turned to Rickie Lambert to solve his striking problems against Palace. It seemed to have been a master stroke when the boyhood Liverpool fan put his side ahead as early as the second minute. A beautifully weighted pass from Adam Lallana found Lambert onside as he cut in from the left and his clinical finish belied the slow start to his Reds' career. It demonstrated the understanding between the two former Saints' players that Rodgers had surely anticipated when he signed them both.
Joe Allen was back in the wars after his bang to the face against Belgium for Wales, taking another blow to the head and having to go off the pitch to have a bandage applied to a head wound. While his side were temporary down to ten men Neil Warnock's team took advantage. The lively Yannick Bolasie drove through a gap in midfield and smashed his shot goal wards only to hit the post, but fortune was with his side as it fell neatly for the 'gambling' Dwight Gayle to put the rebound home with the aid of a slight deflection off Simon Mignolet in the Reds' goal.
Liverpool continued to dominate the possession as the game wore on, without creating much in the way of chances, until Philippe Coutinho jinked his way into the area and found Raheem Sterling. The young international swivelled and shifted the ball on to Javier Manquillo in space on the right side of the Palace box, but he dragged his shot so horrendously wide that it ended up going out for a throw- in on the opposite side of the pitch.
It proved a costly miss as Joe Ledley put the home side ahead with 78 minutes on the clock, sliding the ball under Mignolet's legs in the centre of the goal from Bolasie's cutback, after he had dragged central defender Dejan Lovren out to the flank and then flicked it over him to run on to. The build up to the throw-in that preceded the goal typified Liverpool's wasteful passing, as Mignolet took a free-kick for the Reds and yanked it straight into the crowd instead of upfield.
A slightly fortunate free-kick decision went the south London club's way three minutes later when Gayle and Martin Skrtel battled just outside the penalty box. Replays suggested that both players had a hold on each other's shirts but the officials sided with the striker. Up stepped Mile Jedinak to whip a right footed shot into the top corner beyond Mignolet's reach and send both Warnock and the home side into rapture, with the three points now secure.
Rodgers' immediate task will be to lift his troops for the European game and then to find a way to win their next league match when Stoke City are the visitors to Anfield, although the hopes of European #Football next year already seem to be in the balance as they currently languish five points off fourth place in twelfth place in the table.
A delighted if rather soddened Warnock (heavy rain characterised much of the match) will hope that this result allows them to kick on after a ponderous start to the season has left them in and around the relegation places. Home results like this one would seem vital for their chances of pulling away to safety, in what is proving to be a competitive and unpredictable Premier League season thus far.