Scrappy Liverpool hold off Palace with a late winner

Crystal Palace fans. Pic: Paul Wright

Crystal Palace were unable to cling onto a point as a late Liverpool goal snatched a 2-1 victory for the league leaders at Selhurst Park yesterday.

A disciplined Crystal Palace team were the better side on the day, with a Wilfried Zaha goal giving the fans hope by drawing Palace level at 1-1 after the 82nd minute.

However, Liverpool had other thoughts, managing to squeeze past the Eagles with a late winner.

In true title winning form, Liverpool found a way to conjure another late goal with Roberto Firmino scoring a scrappy finish due to Palace’s failure to clear a corner, dealing the ultimate sucker punch to Palace’s valiant efforts after 85 minutes.

Roy Hodgson’s side will feel unfairly treated after having a goal ruled out by VAR just before half time. James Tomkins thought he had broken the deadlock in the 42nd minute, after a freekick was gifted to Palace by Trent Alexander-Arnold. The freekick was flicked on at the front post and met by a thunderous Tomkins, heading it in at the backpost.

But referee Kevin Friend quickly had his finger to his ear, muting the celebrations of Tomkins and his teammates.

Friend, in communication with Chris Kavanagh, the refereeing official in control of VAR at Stockley Park, reached the verdict of no goal based on a push from Jordan Ayew on Dejan Lovren as the ball went over their heads and towards the back post.

The call, despite being harsh, was correct. But Crystal Palace fans made sure their grievances were heard loud and clear for the rest of the game; berating Friend whenever a decision went against the home side.

Crystal Palace fans. Pic: Jon Candy

With the score at 0-0, James Tomkins’ header would have seen Palace going down the tunnel with a 1-0 lead at the break.

The Eagles were the stronger of the two sides in the first half, with their primary focus looking to utilise Zaha’s attacking prowess against Alexander-Arnold’s defensive steel down the left flank.

However, the visitors held firm, limiting Palace to just half-chances whilst keeping large swathes of possession throughout.

The first half decision by VAR was quickly brought into sharper focus after the restart, as Sadio Mane poked it agonisingly past Guiata; stinging the Palace side as the ball deflected off Gary Cahill on route to hitting both posts before eventually bobbling over the line.

Crystal Palace’s mental resolve was tested after Liverpool took the lead, forced into regrouping before mounting any significant attempt to equalise. 

The introduction of Christian Benteke with 15 minutes to go galvanised Palace’s attack, and when the time came, who else but Palace’s talisman; Wilfried Zaha.

After bombing down the left flank and laying it off to Benteke wide outside the box, Zaha continued his run and eventually picked the ball up again in front of goal, where he dispatched it past Alisson, scoring a deserved equaliser.

Palace’s elation was short lived though, as Liverpool quickly wrestled back the lead, due to a lucky fall of the ball to Roberto Firmino in the penalty box. Liverpool’s number nine drove the ball past the crowded goal mouth and into the bottom right corner, marking his fourth in the league this season.

The Brazilian’s goal went in just three minutes after Zaha’s equaliser; Liverpool’s rapid reply winding a buoyed Selhurst Park.

Hodgson knew how harsh the scoreline was, saying: “It was our best performance of the season.”

“It’s a bitter blow, after getting what we thought was a deserved equaliser to have to concede that second goal after an unfortunate corner kick.”

Liverpool’s victory means Crystal Palace are still searching for their first league win since October 5. While Liverpool further compounded their stronghold on the title race this season with a tough away win keeping them eight clear at the top.  

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