Crystal Palace just brings out the worst in Liverpool.
An individual defensive error, Liverpool missing multiple chances, then shitting the bed on a set play. It's deja vu all over again.
That was a game that Liverpool shouldn't even have drawn, let alone lost. Liverpool, slow to start, had weathered Palace's early flurry without allowing any chances. But, just as Liverpool were getting back into the game, Palace regained possession in Liverpool's defensive third when Sako blocked Moreno's clearance, freeing Zaha in space on the right. Can was in position to cut out his low cross but bafflingly attempted to cushion it to Moreno rather than getting rid, only setting up Bolasie to hammer in from from 10 yards.
Sigh. I thought Liverpool had stopped setting up opposition goals. That's the seventh of the season: twice against West Ham, at Bordeaux, against Norwich, at Everton, at Chelsea, and now today; only Lallana's slight deflection of Azpilicueta's cross before Ramires' header last week was blameless. This was more in the vein of what we'd seen in the dark days earlier this season.
To Liverpool's credit, as they did against Kazan and Chelsea after conceding first, Liverpool quickly asserted control, and eventually found the equalizer. And should have been level far earlier than they were. To the surprise of no one, missed chances – especially from Benteke – would be a dominating theme.
But, as at Chelsea, Liverpool got that the equalizer just before halftime thanks to Philippe Coutinho: winning possession (from a Palace throw) in the opposition half, quickly pushing the ball to Ibe on the opposite flank, Ibe to Clyne to Lallana, back heeled just in front of Benteke but Coutinho in the right place for the loose ball.
Since the beginning of last season, Liverpool scored three Premier League equalizers under Brendan Rodgers: in the 3-1 win at Leicester, 2-2 draw v Arsenal, and 1-1 draw at Chelsea. Three equalizers in 46 matches, having gone behind in 17 of those 46. Klopp's Liverpool's now done that twice in four matches. I'd prefer if Liverpool stopped going behind, but at least we've seen more fight in the side.
Clearly, Liverpool would push on from here and exorcise its demons. And they should have. But Benteke missed two more wonderful chances and was ignored on a soft penalty shout. Liverpool monopolized the ball, but still couldn't create as much as they did before scoring, while Palace threatened exactly once: Zaha storming to the opposite end of the pitch after a Liverpool cross, but Sako only able to put his centered pass into the side netting from a narrow angle.
Liverpool wanted the winner, Liverpool needed the winner, Liverpool were seemingly on pace for the winner. So Liverpool went for it, bringing on Firmino for Can, switching to a 4-1-4-1 formation. You have to admire Klopp's willingness to go for it, to be bold – and Can, responsible for the opener, was clearly tiring – but Liverpool lost control of midfield following the substitution. Palace suddenly had much more space to break: both sides went end-to-end, both sides had chances. Neither had chances as good as the ones Liverpool spurned between Palace's opener and Can's substitution.
And then, the set play breakdown which always seemed inevitable last season and earlier in this, but hasn't for the last few weeks. Palace's sixth corner, the first chance created from a Palace corner: Scott Dann outmuscling Firmino, his first effort save but the rebound scored. Crystal Palace, man. Crystal Palace.
From there, sound and fury signifying nothing, Liverpool limited to Coutinho's left-footed shot from his spot tipped over by Hennessey. Liverpool end the match with 22 shots, 13 more than their opponents, with 16 inside the box and 12 in the Danger Zone. Liverpool end the match with 64% possession, with twice as many completed passes and three times as many completed attacking third passes.
And Liverpool lose.
You can't help but blame fatigue after the trip to Russia, despite assurances of the contrary; Liverpool creating less as the match went on, Can needing to go off, and four defensive errors (three from Can), the most since August 2012 suggest otherwise. You can't help but blame the substitution, even if you understand the logic and admire the motives. You can't help but blame Liverpool's continued profligacy, even if you assume it'll eventually come good; it has to, right? You can't help but blame Crystal Palace, because dammit Palace, stop this.
If Liverpool continue to play like this – wastefulness in front of goal not withstanding, obviously – they'll win a lot more than they lose, as they did in the previous three matches. But there's clearly still a long way to go.