Three things we learned from Liverpool’s dramatic collapse vs. Crystal Palace

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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.

MORE: Latest Premier League standings

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.

Man United hosts Juventus to headline Champions League Tuesday

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The stars align at Old Trafford on Tuesday as Manchester United hosts Juventus at the forefront of the Champions League slate.

Cristiano Ronaldo returns to face his old club and his old manager, while Paul Pogba also takes on his former team as the top spot in Group H is on the line. Ronaldo is back in Champions League action since September 19 when he was controversially sent off, earning a one-match suspension he served in a 3-0 win over Young Boys.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho told the players after throwing away a late lead against Chelsea to “use the anger to motivate ourselves to play a big match.” They’ll take on a Juventus team that’s slightly banged up, missing Mario Mandzukic, Emre Can and Sami Khedira all out injured. Manchester United also has its own issues, with Alexis Sanchez unavailable with Mourinho confirming he’s “not fit” although no other injury information was given.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Manchester City travels east to take on Ukranian club Shakhtar Donetsk. Group F is crowded through two matches, with City in second a point behind Olympique Lyon at the top. Kevin De Bruyne is in the squad after returning from injury over the weekend, coming off the bench for 32 minutes of Premier League play against Burnley. They’ll look to attack a Shakhtar defense that choked away a 2-0 lead against Lyon last time out. City has Kyle Walker available as well, announced as part of the matchday squad.

Bayern Munich visits AEK Athens having returned to winning ways over the weekend with a 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg. It’s a welcome sight for Niko Kovac, who was under fire for a terrible stretch of games, but now the Bavarians have a positive result to take with them on the road. Robert Lewandowski and James Rodriguez were both on the scoresheet, with the Polish international grabbing a brace.

Ajax takes on Benfica in Amsterdam as the Dutch side looks to extend its lead at the top of Group E. They’re tied with Bayern on points, but hold a slightly superior goal differential. Since falling to PSV Eindhoven in Eredivisie play, they have blown out Fortuna Sittard, AZ Alkmaar, and Heerenveen 11-0 over their last three games. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar already has 10 goals this season across all competitions, and former Southampton attacker Dusan Tadic is right behind him with 9.

Real Madrid has its best chance to turn around the poor run of play as they host Czech club Viktoria Plzen. Madrid has not won since September 22, a run of five matches that consists of four defeats. The club broke a scoreless streak of over 450 minutes last time out in a 2-1 loss to Levante, but the pressure has only increased on head coach Julen Lopetegui.

Other matches

Young Boys vs Valencia
AS Roma vs CSKA Moscow
Hoffenheim vs Lyon

Puel, Schmeichel fume at referee after Leicester loss to Arsenal

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While the world looked on at the performance by Mesut Ozil in awe, Leicester City manager Claude Puel and Foxes goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel were left stewing after the match at a first-half decision which they believed changed the game completely.

Had the referee awarded a penalty for a Rob Holding handball in the first half with Leicester City up 1-0, the game would likely have turned out very differently. Holding, already on a yellow card, would have likely been sent off and Leicester City would have a chance from the spot to go up 2-0.

“I think [the first half was] our best half since the beginning of the season,” Puel said after the match. “We deserved to score more goals and make the difference in the first half. I didn’t understand why the referee didn’t whistle for the penalty, because in this moment it was a penalty, it was a second yellow card and so a sending off for the Arsenal player. This situation can change the finality of the game.”

Puel said that once the call was not made, and Arsenal was able to equalize before the break, Leicester City’s level of play dropped enough for the Gunners to pounce.

“I regret a little our beginning of the second half. We lost a lot of balls and we gave them the ball too easily to put us under pressure, but we have had the chances to score and to be leading in the game with the header from Ndidi. A lot of regret in this game because we showed a lot of quality and we were not lucky with the refereeing decision.”

Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was in agreement with his manager about the key first-half decision. “We got no help from the official,” Schmeichel said. “I’ve never seen a clearer penalty. It’s tough to take because we were so good in the first half but in the second we’ve got to do a lot better than we did.”

At halftime, the replay showed the ball clearly hitting Holding’s forearm while above his head. However, the NBC studio crew argued that the penalty was not called because Holding’s arm was hit into the ball by the Leicester City attacker who attempted a header, and that although his arm was above his head, it was not in an unnatural position due to the natural human instinct to balance the body while jumping into the air.

Emery still searching for improvement after Arsenal win

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Arsenal won its 10th match in a row across all competitions with a 3-1 victory over Leicester City, with Mesut Ozil playing the starring role.

Still, Unai Emery isn’t fully pleased with the performance.

[ WATCH: Ozil sets up 2 beautiful goals in Arsenal win over Leicester City ]

Arsenal fell behind 1-0 thanks to a Hector Bellerin own-goal, and the Gunners boss is concerned about his assessment of the 90 minute performance. “Different halves, every match is difficult,” Emery said after the match. “First half we didn’t control the match with possession and positioning.”

Ben Chillwell got behind Bellerin and sent in a cross to the middle of the box, to which goalkeeper Bernd Leno reacted, but the cross clipped off Bellerin’s foot and past the wrong-footed goalkeeper. Arsenal responded with a 3-goal wave, as Ozil scored the first and set the next two up in brilliant fashion.

“We are happy because we are progressing. We need to play with organization but also with heart. We are beginning to play with heart. When you continue to improve your demands are very high. We need to control the matches more than we are doing now.”

The win pushed the Gunners to fourth in the Premier League table, above rivals Tottenham on goal differential. Emery said in order to have success long-term and maintain their Champions League positioning, the players need to be flexible.

“First half we didn’t play well but then we played with quality and heart. This feeling together is very good. We need the number 10 position sometimes with Mesut Ozil and sometimes with Aaron Ramsey. We can’t play with both sometimes. Last match was away and we played it with two strikers. Today Mesut was very good but I believe in every player and different positions for the players.”

West Ham midfielder Yarmolenko out six months after Achilles surgery

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West Ham announced on Monday that midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko would miss around six months after undergoing successful surgery on his Achilles tendon.

Yarmolenko was carried off on a stretcher in the 40th minute of West Ham’s 1-0 loss to Tottenham on Saturday. He appeared to catch his studs in the penalty area turf and went to the ground.

[ MORE: Arsenal tops Leicester City 3-1 ]

The Hammers released a statement confirming the surgery was “successful” and that he would miss around six months. That likely leaves Yarmolenko out for the rest of the season, unless he returns for the final month or so.

The 28-year-old Ukranian international joined West Ham this summer from Borussia Dortmund for a reported $23 million, and had just cracked the starting lineup after coming off the bench for the first four matches of the season. He had a brace in a 3-1 win over Everton, but has otherwise struggled to find the back of the net.

Yarmolenko was expected to be a major part of the West Ham squad this season, with a significant amount of top flight and international experience. Yarmolenko has 80 caps for Ukraine, with 36 goals to his name. He is a versatile player, able to play either on the wing or centrally, and his injury will likely mean more minutes for Michail Antonio who has started just one match for West Ham in their last five.