Liverpool’s second away game in three days yielded another very uneven display – but also another three points which this time take them top of the Premier League.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
Premier League (16), Selhurst Park
December 9, 2023
Goals: Mateta pen 57′; Salah 76′, Elliott 90+1′
Red card: Ayew 74′
Alisson – 8 (out of 10)
A surprise return to the teamsheet, but a welcome one – as shown by his magnificent save just before the half-hour mark to deny Jefferson Lerma, tipping a close-range effort onto the post.
Beaten by a penalty in the second half but didn’t have too much else to be concerned about thereafter – until the 99th minute when he made another absurd stop, low to his right, to tip an otherwise-certain goal around the post.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6
In the first half was simultaneously Liverpool’s best outlet for making anything at all happen, and also the most wasteful player on the pitch, overhitting switches and sending passes beyond his mark or out of play.
The half-time sub meant he went into midfield, at the base of the three, but not much came off for him an an attacking sense – and naturally, he’s not exactly the world’s elite defence-protector at this stage.
Jarell Quansah – 6
A little slow and soft in his early passes led to a few moments of danger, but the greater issue appeared to be that there was so little movement ahead of him a lot of the time that he had no options and not enough progression in his game to bypass Palace’s resolute defensive line.
No real troubles defensively – until he was about to be replaced, when VAR signalled for a foul against him a few minutes earlier and gave a penalty, making that his disappointing last action of the day.
Virgil van Dijk – 9 – Man of the Match
Genuinely excellent for 25 minutes, one of the game’s few good performers at that point.
Definitely made a foul in the box for the penalty given Palace’s way, but escaped without punishment when VAR pulled up an earlier foul on Wataru Endo.
Van Dijk is back to his peak level this season and has been at or near the list of our top performers on a regular basis and was again there today.
Good recovery runs, dominant aerially, winning challenges when needed and passing out well – more of the same needed to retain this push at the top.
Kostas Tsimikas – 7
A decent performer, all told, without setting the world alight.
Defended pretty well against Jordan Ayew’s runs in behind, was a non-stop runner himself and while his deliveries from wide (and a first-half shot) didn’t create much danger, he was fairly consistent on the ball and in being available.
Wataru Endo – 5
Deservedly kept his place, although no doubt as much to do with Alexis’ absence as anything else. Like Quansah, saw a lot of the ball early on but struggled to do too much with it, a consequence of little movement and few runners.
Caught out once or twice after poor touches, but the VAR-penalty-ruling-out incident was correct – Will Hughes fouled Endo in winning it.
Subbed at the break, but as much to do with the Reds’ lack of creativity as his own inability to contribute to breaking Palace down.
Dominik Szoboszlai – 6
After such a good start to the season it’s a few games now where Dom hasn’t been able to influence matters as much as he’d like.
One of those sloppy in possession first half, not so much accuracy in his case but weight of pass and decision-making.
Ryan Gravenberch – 5
More of the same from our Dutchman.
A few really nice turns and surges away from challenges, but also very little at the end of it and too often he’s behind play, regardless of which direction it’s going.
Mohamed Salah – 7
Another half of football with Salah on the fringes of the action, seemingly stuck in a loop at the moment as he chases his 200th Reds goal.
Spurned a really good counter-attacking chance with the Reds three-on-one on the halfway line as he couldn’t get the ball under control quickly enough.
Another shocker of a pass wasted a four-on-three just after Palace’s opener, while an earlier good move and cut-back to him saw Mo scuff a shot, blocked.
He usually loves a goal or an assist against Palace, though, so it’s about right he finally managed to get both: first to scuff another one against a defender and into the net – that’s 200 up for the Reds at long last – and then to set up Harvey Elliott‘s solo winner.
Darwin Nunez – 5
Spent an inordinate amount of time running offside in the first half, though there was plenty of work rate at times in tracking back and winning the ball – just very little going forward and into dangerous areas.
Started the second half taking play with his back to goal (offside) and heading just wide of the post (offside).
Beyond that his biggest contributions were not quite managing to reach two set-piece deliveries towards the far post.
Luis Diaz – 5
Clearly had the beating of Joel Ward – who doesn’t? – and got him booked in the first half, but just didn’t really seem to do a lot with the ball whether running infield or holding the width.
Didn’t have another attempt running at Ward after the yellow card either and just looks, like several others right now, well off his top game.
Hopefully that late run through and clip past the ‘keeper will rouse him somewhat, even if it didn’t count.
Joe Gomez (on for Endo, 46′) – 8
A tough battle with Schlupp at times but got forward well when he could, helping force the comeback.
Cody Gakpo (on for Gravenberch, 57′) – 7
Seemed to be stationed right wing a lot, which is a new one. Some decent clipped deliveries from that side in fairness.
Ibrahima Konate (on for Quensah, 57′) – 5
Barely paying attention the first few minutes, it appeared. Playing catch-up at times with balls played behind him.
Curtis Jones (on for Szoboszlai, 73′) – 7
Immediately set up the equaliser (and was fouled, so would have been a penalty anyway). Good movement and energy.
Harvey Elliott (on for Nunez, 73′) – 8
Fouled for the red card. Scurried about plenty, dribbled past two and planted a shot inside the near post for 2-1.
Might well win him a starting spot next time out. Man of the Match if Virgil wasn’t so good, which says a lot about a 20-minute performance and the rest of the team!
Subs not used: Kelleher, Bradley, McConnell, Doak
Jurgen Klopp – 7
Made the expected changes for the most part, plus the boost of Alisson.
Quansah in defence is probably to mind Konate’s minutes, given Joel Matip‘s injury and Ibou’s own history, but it was clear Jurgen wasn’t happy with the Reds’ lack of productivity in the first 45 and his half-time change of Gomez on was his opening attempt to remedy that.
By the hour mark, though, there was another double sub and the Reds were a goal down – it was so sloppy, so slow and so predictable that it was getting to be a matter of shuffling the pack just to make something happen, even if that meant two and three players outside their normal roles by then.
A final pair of subs with 20 or so to play saw Jones and Elliott come on, with the younger pair bringing energy and movement which had been woefully lacking, and between them contributed to both 1-1 and 2-1 – and a red card.
How much of that comeback was by design and how much just force of possession and pressure? The Reds aren’t playing well, so Klopp needs to fix that either way.