Benteke 42' 74'
Back to the bad old days. So much for the resiliency shown in the two previous wins, so much for the seven-game unbeaten run.
Par for the awful course from start to finish, for better and worse.
Patient, almost acceptable, almost decent, but basically unthreatening from the opening whistle, tons of possession but few chances. Then, as against West Brom, Liverpool score a well-taken set play goal, this time earlier in the first half, this time from Coutinho. A set play that he single-handedly won, then his second direct free kick of the season, the first time a Liverpool player's scored two direct free kicks in the Premier League since both Suarez and Gerrard did it in 2013-14.
Decent but unthreatening play continues, but not the needed second goal, with Liverpool limited to one mis-hit Can chance. The opposition rightfully assesses that the same will suffice, keep it tight and wait for Liverpool to Liverpool. And Liverpool Liverpools. One over-the-top hopeful pass. Lovren insanely charges into nowhere, leaving Cabaye able to turn into space, Matip caught in two minds, and Clyne futilely chasing Benteke. A well-hit cross, a tap-in, just minutes before half-time.
We saw all of the archetypal stages of a 2017 Liverpool match against anyone outside the Top 7.
1) Everything could be better but is basically okay
2) Hey, that was good, everything might not be bad!
3) *One opposition pass, or a set play, or a mistake unlocks Liverpool's defense*
4) Welp, we're boned
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Liverpool had a little flurry to start the second half, but sound and fury signifying nothing, almost all from Philippe Coutinho. Wonderful footwork to create space just outside the box, but a left-footed effort fired far over. A run into and through the box, but a penalty not given when he stayed on his feet after Martin Kelly clipped his ankle and his close-range shot blocked by Tomkins. A header from Clyne's dangerous cross hitting Origi, although it would've been off-target anyway.
And then the decline and then the collapse. A frustrated Liverpool continues to run headlong into a brick wall and fails to bust through it. Liverpool create just one chance for the next 20 minutes: Firmino from a very wide angle pulled wide of the far post.
And Liverpool Liverpools, again. Dejan Lovren does Dejan Lovren, again: giving the ball away with a dumb pass out of defense then charging in and missing the tackle, putting Townsend through on goal, rescued by Milner's tackle. Liverpool's set play marking does Liverpool's set play marking, again: Firmino misses his clearance at the near post, players are caught static as the ball sails through the six-yard box, an opposition player reacts first for a tap-in. Benteke. Again.
And Liverpool have no response, because Plan A isn't working and the bench has an average age of 19, the outfield players available being Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold, Grujic, Gomez, Rhian Brewster, and Old Man Alberto Moreno. Alexander-Arnold, Moreno, and Grujic come on. Liverpool's formation becomes a 3 - ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ - ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. There are a couple of shots, but none worth mentioning and none anywhere near on-target.
And Liverpool lose. For, to be fair, just the second time at Anfield this season. But also, for the sixth time in 13 matches against sides currently sitting 12th-18th. Five wins, two draws, and six losses – 1.31 PPG – against teams who currently have between 31 and 38 points. Liverpool have 66. Liverpool should have at least ten more.
It is the seventh time that Liverpool have failed to win after taking a 1-0 lead.
Liverpool failed to put a single open play shot on-target today. They've put all of three on-target in the last two matches: two from set plays leading to two goals and a slow roller from Origi from outside the box. Three on-target. One from open play. From 29 shots in total.
Both goals were avoidable and stupidly allowed, and there's a definite scapegoat involved in both. And ex-Liverpool player Christian Benteke scored both of them.
This is Sam Allardyce's first league win at Anfield at the 14th time of asking.
It's Crystal Palace's third consecutive win at Anfield. No side's beaten Liverpool three-in-a-row at Anfield since Chelsea did it from 2003-2005.
And now, Champions League qualification's arguably out of Liverpool's hands. Both City and United can catch Liverpool with their games in-hand, despite facing each other this Thursday.
And if Liverpool don't qualify for the Champions League, this season is a failure.