19 January 2019

Liverpool 4-3 Crystal Palace

Townsend 34'
Salah 46' 75'
Firmino 53'
Tomkins 65'
Mané 90+3'
Meyer 90+5'

Did you miss last season's Liverpool? Did you miss the cardiac arrest?

So many memories.

Getting brick-walled in the first half by 11 men behind the ball. An opposition goal from a first counter-attack and first shot on-target. Liverpool somehow going on to concede twice more, from a set play and a late, late scramble. Three incredibly regrettable goals from just three opposition shots on-target.

Liverpool haven't conceded three goals in a match since last season's Champions League final. They hadn't done it in the league since the 4-3 win over City almost exactly a year ago. They hadn't done it against a non-top six side since the opening day of last season.


At least Liverpool can't stop scoring either, once they finally make the break-through. Mohamed Salah can't stop scoring, his 15th and 16th in the league to continue leading the division, with six in the last six games in this regression of a second season. We get goals from all of Salah, Mané, and Firmino, for just the third time this season and only the second in the league. For the first time since *checks watch* Liverpool's last home game.

We get you score, I score, we all score. We get happy. We get angry. We get multiple heart attacks.

There are reminders, multiple reminders, but it's not quite last season's Liverpool.

No matter the threat of dropping points against a side that you shouldn't be dropping points against, a side that's given Liverpool multiple problems in recent meetings, managed by a frequent foil and, yes, former manager.

No matter going behind, going into halftime behind. No matter conceding from one of the easiest set plays you'll see. No matter conceding three times, three very last-season-Liverpool goals, from just three opposition shots on-target.

No matter the scares, no matter the set-backs.

No matter the pressure of leading the league.

This season's Liverpool does not crumble so easily. This season's Liverpool still isn't last season's Liverpool. Take the lead? Fine, we'll come back. Get an equalizer against the run of play? We're not done here yet.

But holy wow were we frightened.

We were frightened when Townsend gave Palace the lead in the 34th minute despite Liverpool having something like 90% possession before hand. The press fully engaged with the front six all chasing, the press broken by McArthur somehow retaining possession then finding van Aanholt in space, to Zaha one-on-one with Milner, Zaha to the byline and Townsend to the penalty spot for the cut-back.

We were frightened when Palace equalized at 2-2 after Liverpool's flurry to start the second half. Salah gets Liverpool back in the game within a minute, cheekily poaching van Dijk's deflected shot from distance with an outside-of-the-boot flick; Firmino gives Liverpool the lead with a bobbling deflected shot after good work from Robertson and Keïta.

We're celebrating. We're thankful. We're proud of this season's Liverpool's perseverance, skill, and fortune. But then we're punished. Thanks to Palace's first corner and the easiest header that James Tomkins will ever have, rising highest when Ayew pins van Dijk out of position and neither Fabinho nor Keïta can cover.

0-1, 2-1, 2-2. The specter of dropped points despite having a lead, something that plagued Liverpool often last season. The specter of dropped points against Crystal Palace, against Roy Hodgson, when the gap with Manchester City is still uncomfortably narrow and City are facing the worst side in the division tomorrow.

But it ain't over yet. And fortune continues to favor the good. And Mohamed Salah continues to be in the right place at the right time. Sustained possession, Fabinho wide to Milner, but his byline cross too close to Speroni. But! Speroni – 37 and making his first start in 13 months – tips it up rather than out. But! Mohamed Salah is on hand to jam it in from an actual inch out, most likely going over the line for an own goal anyway but let's not take chances here.


It looks like we're done here when Mané finally finishes one of Liverpool's multiple fast breaks, slamming in from a wide angle in the 93rd minute, but there are no easy minutes today. Not when James Milner's been sent off a few minutes before because a second yellow on Zaha – who tormented the stand-in right back whenever given the chance. Not when we're finishing with ten men, with Adam Lallana in central midfield and with Firmino then debutant Rafa Camacho as replacement right-backs.

Not when we're emulating last season's Liverpool.

So we're left to sweat and shake and swear when Max Meyer scores in the final minute of injury time, with a right-flank cross into Wickham laid off perfectly, substitute to substitute. We're sweating and shaking and swearing as we play past the 95th minute, with the game ending on van Aanholt's shot from distance, sent gratefully into the stands rather than the back of the net.

But then we're celebrating again, as we've done in the vast majority of matches this season. Because Liverpool's won again, not in the way we've become accustomed to, but as hearteningly and necessarily as every win's been this season.

For all faults, for any faults, this Liverpool team does not stop. And that alone – no matter the talent and no matter the fortune – makes them different than any other Liverpool side in recent memory.

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