Mizgan Ahmed on 8th November, 2015
A disappointing night for Liverpool as they succumbed to their first defeat under new manager Jurgen Klopp. Yannick Bolasie got Palace infront in the 21st minute, Coutinho equalized for Liverpool three minutes before halftime and Scott Dann scored the winner for the Eagles eight minutes from time.
Let us analyze the game half by half.
It was a confident start for visitors as they pressed Liverpool higher up the pitch inflicting few errors from Mignolet’s distribution. Reds though, grew into the game gradually, passing around with conviction and pushing the visitors back. In the 21st minute, Palace drew first blood through Yannick Bolasie’s bullet finish at the Kop end. The goal should have been avoided as far as Liverpool are concerned, firstly Moreno lost the ball in the dangerous central area and then the resulting cross was straight at Can who tried to cushion into the path of Lucas ended up giving it to Bolasie who blasted it past Mignolet. Liverpool then had loads of possession but they were not decisive enough, it seemed like they were confused whether to play wide and put crosses or play more narrowly and hope to break Palace down who became very deep after taking the lead. The fullbacks were solid as far as defending is concerned but their attacking threats again were not up to the mark, Clyne and Moreno needed to put more crosses rather than looking for some intelligent movements from forward players all the time. Eventually, the equalizer came in the 42nd minute when Clyne on the overlap puts in a good low cross only to be dummied by Lallana and Benteke and deposited home by Coutinho sending goalkeeper the wrong way. All in all, after first 22 minutes or I can say after conceding the goal, Liverpool were the better side, obviously Sakho’s injury is a huge blow.
It was a bit deja vu start in the second half with Palace again early in the half trying to press Liverpool higher up the pitch, but Liverpool dealt with that really well and were again in control of possession and match. The Reds in second half though, were better in terms of creating chances as they played wide using overlapping runs of fullbacks stretching Palace to their limits. Chances came thick and fast but were not taken, Benteke probably having the best chance of the match did not hit the target from his header. Liverpool looked more decisive in the final third as the game progressed. 25 minutes still to play and Klopp brought on Firmino for Can, a forward player replacing a midfielder. This changed Liverpool’s shape from 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-4-1 with Lucas the only midfielder protecting the back line. It was a risky substitution from the German and a bit too early. Palace made use of it, whenever they had the ball, Zaha and Bolasie ran at their fullbacks and Liverpool didn’t had much cover for it, Lucas was left stranded many times and he seemed to be in two minds whether to cover the fullbacks or stop any through runs from Palace midfielders. A soft corner was conceded by Liverpool in the 82nd minute,the reason being one on one situation between the winger and the fullback, the resulting corner was headed home by Scott Dann who surprisingly was unmarked in the box, Firmino was supposed to mark him. After that, some good defending from Delaney and Dann who had excellent games ensured that Liverpool went to another international break with a loss and Crystal Palace continued to be their bogey team.
I would like to stress on the point where Klopp made that attacking change by bringing Firmino on for Can, I thought this played it into Palace’s hands, they knew Liverpool are vulnerable in the midfield now, they made Zaha and Bolasie to run at fullbacks with little cover for them.
Now as we see, Lucas is in trouble here and with the pace Palace has on counters and wing players, it was destined that there will be problems for Liverpool’s backline with little protection. When Palace had the ball, there are lots of spaces for Zaha or Bolasie to run at Clyne or Moreno, Lucas is in two minds here, whether to block the run of Cabaye or go on to cover the fullbacks. This is where Liverpool lost the plot, Klopp threw Firmino on a bit early, maybe he could have delayed that substitution by 8-10 minutes. Eventually, Firmino was the culprit in conceding that second goal, he left Dann unmarked who took two chances to finish.
Overall, a defeat that could have been avoided by Liverpool, defence needs to be decisive, set piece defending and attacking both continues to be a problem. Fullbacks have to cross better to get Benteke in the game. Benteke, on the other hand needs to take his chances, there were one or two instances where he could have taken the shot himself rather than making it for others, he should remember he is a centre forward, he himself needs to take the chances.
Although, the International break coming just at the right time for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp as it gives him the necessary time to work on what he has and what he can do to improve this side.