Crystal Palace 1 #Liverpool 2 (Half-time 1-0)
Steven Gerrard's hopes of leading his side out for the FA Cup final on his 35th birthday remain on track, after Liverpool came back against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park to defeat them 2-1. They had to work hard to remain in the competition though, after falling behind to a first-half strike from Fraizer Campbell. Daniel Sturridge brought them level after the break and then fellow English international Adam Lallana delivered the killer blow nine minutes later.
The build up to the game had focused on the semi-final between the two clubs 25 years previously, a rip-roaring encounter that Palace had won against the odds thanks to their current manager Alan Pardew's extra-time clincher. This game was to more closely follow the heartache he had suffered at the hands of the Reds in another FA Cup game though, when his West Ham side lost the final in 2006. In truth, the fifth-round tie yesterday had little of the great drama that either of those two games provided, but did develop into an interesting battle.
The away side bossed much of the first period possession-wise, threatening to score throughout, but going behind to the sucker punch as defensive lapses again cost them dear. This time the offenders were Martin Skrtel and Simon Mignolet, who severed their communication lines on 15 minutes to allow Campbell to neatly fire home. Joe Ledley had pumped the ball down the middle causing momentary panic for Skrtel, whose intervention only served to present a chance to Dwight Gayle. Mignolet parried his effort, but could do nothing as Campbell followed up.
That advantage allowed Pardew's men to sit back, drawing Brendan Rodgers' side on to them, with the counter-attacking pace of Gayle and Yannick Bolassie to worry them should they overcommit themselves in their pursuit of an equalizer. Rodgers was no doubt wary after the 3-1 reversal in the league earlier in the season, with Bolassie their chief tormentor on that occasion.
Both Lallana and skipper Jordan Henderson were denied by the athleticism of Julian Speroni in the Palace goal, as he kept out goal bound strikes. Sturridge saw claims for a penalty turned down by the officials on the half hour mark, with replays suggesting marginal contact may have been made with the returning players' ankles, as Pape Souare made his challenge.
The London side almost made it two just before the interval, when the lively Gayle was denied by Mignolet, doing what he does best, shot-stopping. That would have been harsh on the Reds and the Belgian keeper at that stage, as the goal apart, he had been far more commanding between the sticks than in many games this season.
Liverpool did not have to wait long into the second period before restoring parity, as Henderson clipped a neat cross for Sturridge to fire through Speroni's legs on 49 minutes. They almost went behind again though, minutes later, when Gayle was denied for a second time by Mignolet.
The winner came from a rebound, after substitute Mario Balotelli's strike from a direct free-kick had been parried by Speroni. The ball fell nicely for the alert Lallana and he netted to turn the tie in his side's favour at last, with half an hour remaining. #FootballThere was still plenty of time remaining for Palace to send the tie to a replay and the visitors rode their luck before the end, as Alberto Moreno looked to have handled the ball as it flicked up on to him. The Eagles' penalty appeals were dismissed and Liverpool were able to see the game out.