LONDON — Following Liverpool’s incredible 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday, the Reds threatened to eat into Manchester City’s superior goal difference but then blew it all away.
Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge ran riot in the second half as Brendan Rodgers’ side surged into a 3-0 lead but then they collapsed in the final 11 minutes as they crumbled in epic fashion.
Liverpool are still top of the table but are just one point ahead of Manchester City. However the crucial factor is that Man City have a game in hand and are still nine goals better off in terms of goal differential.
What did we learn from this incredible draw? So much, but here are three things.
Liverpool’s leaky defense comes back to haunt them, again
All season Liverpool’s defensive frailty has been their Achilles heel and on Monday night it was once again the case. 3-0 up with 11 minutes to play, Liverpool’s defense imploded and burst open at the seams and Palace scored three times to leave the title-chasers stunned. Dwight Gayle came off the bench in the 65th minute and struggled to impact the game but then he lost his marker to pull Palace back to 3-2 down in the 81st minute and then in the 88th minute Gayle was allowed acres of space by Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho to slot home the pivotal equalizer. It was not only Liverpool’s central defenders who gave Palace acres of space time and time again, Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan were culpable as Yannick Bolasie tore them both apart. In 37 games Liverpool has now conceded 49 goals, only Stoke and Newcastle have conceded more goals than that in the top half of the standings. No matter how good you are going forward, having a defense reminiscent of a leaky sieve is a recipe for disaster.
Suarez and Sturridge hold the key
After an even first half in which Liverpool kept the ball for large periods and Palace threatened on the break, the match was crying out for somebody to take it by the scruff of the neck. Two players, as they often have this season, took up that mantle: Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. In the 51st minute Sturridge raced clear, cut inside and curled an effort towards the far corner that Julian Speroni finger-tipped onto the post and the ball fell perfectly to Suarez who uncharacteristically skied the rebound over. That was just a warning shot to Palace, as soon after Sturridge jinxed past Palace’s challenges and saw his shot deflect off Damien Delaney and in. A few moments later Liverpool were 3-0 up and racing back to the halfway line to kick off and try to further eat into Manchester City’s goal difference. Suarez latched onto a marvelous pass from Raheem Sterling and finished it off to score his 31st of the season. With that goal Suarez has now equaled the record for the most goals scored in a 38-game Premier League season (31) and he has one game to beat the record Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo hold. With a fully-fit Sturridge by his side Suarez was sublime and the duo hold the key to Liverpool’s now slim title chances. Their ‘shoot on sight’ mentality will be needed once again versus Newcastle on the final day, as they hope Man City slip up and their star forwards keep scoring.
Mile Jedinak and Yannick Bolasie the most underrated players in Premier League?
If these two names were mentioned at the start of the season, how many of you could honestly say you knew much about Bolasie and Jedinak? Well, you should know much more about them now. Jedinak ran the midfield on Monday night and every time I’ve seen him this season the Australian international has been simply superb. He is a powerhouse who can pass, head and tackle with incredible efficiency and he drives his team on from midfield. He ‘out-Gerrarded’ Steven Gerrard on Monday and was the driving force behind Palace’s comeback as he was popping up on the wing with 20 minutes to go and was absolutely everywhere. As for Bolasie, his trickery on the left flank bamboozled Johnson and he was key in Palace’s stunning comeback. The former Plymouth Argyle winger has been all around the lower leagues but has grabbed his chance in the big time with both hands. If someone writes an underrated Premier League XI at the end of the season (and there will be, because I will write it) the Bolasie and Jedinak should be the first two names on the teamsheet. Inspirational performances from two gems.