Liverpool edged to a nervy 3-1 victory against Crystal Palace on Super Sunday, keeping Manchester City in their sights at the top of the Premier League table.
It was an explosive start from Jurgen Klopp’s side as Virgil van Dijk (8) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (32) saw the Reds 2-0 ahead and, at that point, looking comfortable.
But Palace fought back valiantly and after a string of chances, Odsonne Edouard (55) slotted home a deserved reply 10 minutes after the break.
They were made to pay for their misses, though, as Liverpool were awarded a late penalty following a lengthy VAR check – and it was a controversial decision as Vicente Guaita and Diogo Jota collided inside the area. After a check of the monitor, referee Kevin Friend swung in Liverpool’s favour.
In the absence of usual penalty taker Mohamed Salah, Fabinho slotted home from the spot to see Jurgen Klopp’s side move to within nine points of Man City, taking advantage of the leaders’ draw against Southampton on Saturday Night Football
Having won 7-0 on their last visit to Selhurst Park, Liverpool were on an early hunt for goals. Andy Robertson pinged an effort over the crossbar, before Jordan Henderson’s low strike from 20 yards was palmed away by Guaita.
Seconds later, Liverpool went ahead with Palace’s frailties from set-pieces exposed once again. Robertson swung in a superb corner from the left, with no one marking Van Dijk. He powered a ferocious header home.
The second was not too far behind – Fabinho lifting an effort over in the interim – but it was Robertson again who helped make it 2-0. His cross from the left pinged over the box to reach the returning Oxlade-Chamberlain on the far side of the area. He controlled well before firing into the bottom corner.
However, there was a question of offside for Liverpool’s second after a jump from Roberto Firmino in the middle as the cross came in. After a brief VAR check, they deemed the defender or the goalkeeper were not impacted by Firmino despite him jumping for the ball.
But Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp disagreed, saying at half-time: “He is offside as Mitchell has to mark him. He goes for the ball and makes Mitchell position change.”
Palace then saw a few more chances fall their way. Jean-Philippe Mateta picked out Conor Gallagher inside the area, but the midfielder – making his 100th club career appearance – could not get the ball under his control with his back to goal. A sloppy Joel Matip pass then allowed Michael Olise to drive into the area, but Alisson make another superb stop.
However, he was almost beaten not long after. Mateta drove down the right of the area, swinging his cross around the goalkeeper, who had come out to put him off. But his effort just fizzed wide of the far post as the net was left unguarded.
Liverpool continued to ride their luck early in the second half. Olise bamboozled Robertson down the right to send a cross in, but Gallagher glanced his header wide of the far post. Edouard then tried to backheel the ball home from close range, but Alisson somehow managed to get his hands to it inside a packed six-yard box.
After a string of superb chances, Crystal Palace finally made the breakthrough in the 55th minute. It’s was a defence-splitting pass from Jeffrey Schlupp that allowed Mateta to get in behind the Liverpool defence. With only Alisson to beat, he squared the ball for Edouard on his left, who slotted home easily into an open net.
There was still plenty on the line as the game entered the final ten minutes. Olise almost levelled things up as his chipped effort had Alisson scrambling back. The goalkeeper soon scooped the effort behind.
Crystal Palace: Guaita (6), Ward (6), Andersen (7), Guehi (7), Mitchell (6), Gallagher (7), Hughes (6), Schlupp (7), Olise (7), Edouard (7), Mateta (7).
Subs used: Eze (6), Ayew (6), Benteke (6).
Liverpool: Alisson (8), Alexander-Arnold (6), Matip (6), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (7), Henderson (6), Fabinho (7), Jones (7), Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Firmino (7), Jota (6).
Subs used: Minamino (6), Milner (n/a), Gomez (n/a).
Man of the match: Alisson.
But controversy reigned late on with another refereeing decision going against Palace. Guaita and Jota collided inside the area, with Kevin Friend initially waving away the claims. But VAR intervened, with the referee also consulting the pitchside monitor, and awarded Liverpool the spot-kick.
“It’s not a penalty,” Redknapp added. “The referee got it right. You can see Jota going into the goalkeeper. VAR got it wrong but the referee still has the ability to go to the screen and trust his original decision.”
Fabinho stepped up and scored the penalty as Liverpool took another three points from Selhurst Park. There were deafening boos from the home fans as Friend left the field after the game – flanked by Patrick Vieira and Crystal Palace coach Shaun Derry – leaving the hosts in 13th place.
Vieira: Penalty decision ‘huge mistake’
Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira:
“That goal shouldn’t have been allowed. The penalty shouldn’t be allowed. So all I can do is give you my frustration. I prefer not to go too far because I don’t want to be in trouble.
“I strongly believe it was a huge mistake from the referee. That took away our hope to try and get the points. That decision had a massive impact on the game today. You have to look at the performances of the referees. I’m always honest about referees but today the referees didn’t have a good game at all. It happens too often at home when we play the big teams.
“The reason [why Vieira did not think the penalty should have been given] is having those meetings with the referee and explaining to coaches that contact is part of the game, so that if there is a situation like that and there is not an obvious contact, there will not be a penalty.
“This one here and when you look at the situation with Jota, who I believe was really quite smart, but at the same the referee was naive or the VAR I should say was naive.
“There is no way that Jota could get the ball back and score or that Vince tried to stop. There is no way Vince and Jota cannot have contact because of the situation they were in.”
Klopp: A ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ performance
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to Sky Sports:
“It was a bit Jekyll and Hyde football today. You could see how good we can be. We were incredible in the first 35 minutes. Then after an intense week – away at Arsenal – I don’t have any real explanation but the intensity might be one.
“We became sloppy in the last line. In the second half we were not compact, the first line pressed too high and the distance was not right. We played a high line and did not catch them offside which was our fault of course.
“You try absolutely everything and you are not always superior or dominant but you need results. That’s football. We did it the hard way but we did it.
“Crystal Palace are a really talented team, wow… We opened the door for them and they were more than ready to come through it. It makes the win even better because we worked so hard.”
On the penalty: “It was massive really. I didn’t see it back but I don’t think I have to because we thought it was and the referee did. The Crystal Palace people did not, which I understand. It was a big three points for us. An intense period so a little breather now which helps. Then we start again.”