Liverpool’s title hopes left in tatters by Palace fightback
Visitors let three goal lead slip with 12 minutes to go to give Manchester City the upper hand
Crystal Palace 3 (Allen 18,Sturridge 53,Suarez 55) Liverpool 3 (Delaney 79,Gayle 81, 88)
At one point, early in the second half, Liverpool’s supporters could be heard confidently proclaiming “We’re going to win the league.” Their team had just gone 3-0 ahead and, once again, had looked like worthy champions. What happened next was almost inexplicable and will almost certainly make this the night Liverpool threw away any chance of ending that long 24-year wait for a championship.
At this stage of the season, a team that wants to finish as champions cannot surely get away with being this generous. Brendan Rodgers’s team had led through Joe Allen’s 18th-minute header and they were not far off rampant when Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez scored within two minutes of each other after the interval.
Yet what a comeback this was from a Crystal Palace side that looked suspiciously in end-of-season mode for three-quarters of this match. Almost out of nowhere, Damien Delaney picked out the top corner with a 79th-minute shot. Yannick Bolasie’s brilliant run on the left set up Dwight Gayle to add a second two minutes later and, by the end, Liverpool’s players were on the floor and Suarez was in tears. Gayle had scored a dramatic 88th-minute equaliser and the title surely now belongs to Manchester City.
The result means that no matter how Liverpool fare in their final game of season, if Manchester City win their last two matches, the Premier League title will go to the Etihad. When Allen headed them into the lead, from Steven Gerrard’s corner, Lucas could be seen ignoring the celebrations to retrieve the ball and race back to the centre-circle to resume play as quickly as possible.
“Attack, attack, attack,” was the cry from the Liverpool end. Realistically, however, it was always futile thinking they could catch City this way, however obliging their next game against Newcastle might appear. The aim was to ensure the pressure was loaded back on City and, in fairness, the away side quickly set about trying to get last week’s defeat to Chelsea out of their system.
Tony Pulis has based Palace’s resurgence on qualities of structure and resilience but there was something disjointed about their defending at times.
Mamadou Sakho had already wasted a free header from one of Gerrard’s corners by the time Allen scored his first Liverpool goal, on his 50th appearance for the club, and the marking on both occasions was strangely lax.
Allen had peeled off to the back post, eluding Joe Ledley in the process, and the referee, Mark Clattenburg, did not see anything wrong despite Palace’s complaints that Luis Suarez and Lucas has taken it in turns to impede their player. Allen, hardly known for his aerial prowess was inside the six-yard area as the ball found him in space.