Despite holding a poor record against Crystal Palace at Anfield in recent times, Liverpool were able to overcome their demons as they secured their first victory of the new Premier League campaign courtesy of a composed strike from Sadio Mane.
The Reds dominated much of the game’s proceedings, but the Eagles will be ruing a number of missed chances which could have maintained their impressive record at Anfield – as they remain winless so far this season.
Jurgen Klopp made a host of changes from their 3-3 draw with Watford on the opening weekend – including handing starts to Andrew Robertson and Joe Gomez – whilst the Eagles fielded an attacking lineup intent on causing trouble against Liverpool’s defence.
Liverpool dominated the game’s early possession, knocking it around comfortably across the back four, but posing no immediate threat in the early minutes to a Crystal Palace side looking to bounce back from their opening weekend defeat to Huddersfield.
As the game increased in tempo, it was the Reds who looked to utilise a fluid system of one-touch passes and the width of the field to unlock the Eagles defence.
Robertson made the first run in behind the Crystal Palace backline, followed closely by James Milner and Joel Matip – all of whom should have done better to test Wayne Hennessey in the away goal.
Andrew Robertson’s first half by numbers vs. Crystal Palace:
85% pass accuracy
3 chances created
Promising start. 👏 pic.twitter.com/RcNI3NJjpX
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 19, 2017
The Eagles – deploying a more direct style of play under new manager Frank de Boer – were able to test Liverpool’s defence set-up at set pieces early on in the first half, where James Tomkins’ header would have left Simon Mignolet struggling to make up ground had he been on target.
Jurgen Klopp’s side on the other hand were able to win the ball back effectively in Crystal Palace’s defensive half and maintain pressure, however they failed to find the both the first, and final touch to make their domination in possession count in the final third.
And the visitors almost made the Reds pay as a save from Hennessey following Roberto Firmono’s powerful strike sent the Eagles away on a swift counter-attack – capitalising on the Reds lack of defensive numbers – which set up Jason Puncheon, but his shot was agonisingly straight at Mignolet.
The half was a somewhat frustrating one for Liverpool who were unable to find the back of the net despite their attacking domination, whilst the Eagles likely headed into the break confident of snatching a goal, whilst keeping Liverpool at bay.
This is one of those games where just one genuine piece of attacking quality could win it. Hope it’s delivered by someone in red.
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) August 19, 2017
Liverpool came rushing out of the blocks in the second-half, immediately finding pockets of space in-behind the Eagles back-line – with the final delivery once again evading the Merseysiders.
Despite being pushed back for over ten minutes, the Eagles should have broken the deadlock when Ruben Loftus-Cheek made a scintillating run down the left-hand side of Liverpool’s defence.
His square up to Christian Benteke looked certain to be converted by the Belgian striker but the 26-year-old who has an impeccable record against the Reds – five goals in his last three games as a visitor at Anfield – failed to take advantage of his clear shot on goal.
Benteke with a miss of Sunday League proportions there.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) August 19, 2017
The hectic second-half continued as the home side sent a number of quick-fire shots in Hennessey’s direction, which the Welsh keeper did well to keep out.
A scramble in the Crystal Palace box following a surging run on the wing from Mohamed Salah had both sets of fans groaning in frustration, but that didn’t last long for Liverpool fans as the Reds went on to break the deadlock only moments later.
It was an unlucky set of circumstances for the Eagles as the ball ricocheted of a defender and fell kindly to Mane, who calmly slotted the ball past the oncoming Hennessey to give the home side the lead, merely fifteen minutes away from full-time.
In the quest to level the scores and make the Reds experience a nervy finish to the game, the Eagles resorted to long balls which has brought success to a number of league rivals.
However, it also left the Eagles exposed to the pace of Liverpool’s counter-attack who could have added to their lead if it were not for the intervention of Hennessey – who had a largely impressive game in between the sticks.
Mane’s late goal has secured a much needed three points for Liverpool, who will now swiftly turn their attention to the second-leg of their Champions League qualification on Wednesday against Hoffenheim, before welcoming Arsenal to Anfield in their third league game of the season.
Crystal Palace will head back to Selhurst Park to host Swansea on Saturday, not only looking to register their first win of the campaign, but also their first goal.