Player ratings: Liverpool 4-3 Crystal Palace

Milner-takes-on-Zaha
Well that game didn’t do my nerves any good. There’s something about playing Palace for us that never makes it straightforward. Anyway, let’s see how the lads got on.

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Alisson (6) - I’m perhaps being a little hyper-critical here but I actually thought Alisson could have done better with both their first and third goals. The first, although it is struck with a lot of pace, it’s right at him and if he goes for it with his feet (dare I say, De Gea style) then he gives himself a much better chance of saving it than trying to drop to the ground and for the third, he gets to it and really should have tipped it around the post in my opinion although I’ll concede, neither were easy saves. If he wants to be judged amongst the best in the world however, then this is what it looks like.

Milner (6.5) - Really difficult to score Milner here as he was starting in an unfamiliar position and had the unenviable task of trying to contain Zaha, who should really be playing for a top four team. Milner was really good going forward and can claim an assist for Salah’s second. Given a fairly torrid time of it defensively from Zaha however and could really have done with a bit more protection. Sent off for a second bookable offence. Hopefully our injured players recover by then and that doesn’t  come back to bite us.

Matip (7.5) - I actually thought Matip had a really good game but should have done better with his two chances in the first half. He did well bringing the ball out from the back and knowing when to push forward and try and overload Palace. Not really at fault for any of the goals and considering he’s just back from injury, he put in a respectable display. If he could only stay fit, he’d be a really good squad player.

Van Dijk (7) - A fairly quiet afternoon for Virgil defensively as the vast majority of the Palace attacks went down our right side. Was blocked off from getting to the ball for Palace second. That is a tactic that was used by Everton earlier in the season and one we must become wise to. Virgil played like a CM for large parts of yesterday as he stepped forward to join in our build up play. Classy player.

Robertson (8) - Like Virgil, not called upon defensively too much, due to Palace predominantly attacking down our right but any one on ones he found himself involved in with Townsend, he generally came out on top. Going forward he made a number of surging runs forward and was unlucky with a decent effort on goal and could have had another had Keita not inexplicably taken the ball off his toe as he was nicely shaped for a volley. Grabbed himself a good assist for Mane with his usual tenaciousness, refusing to accept anything is a lost cause, kept the ball in brilliantly and Mane did the rest. Another fine display from the league’s best left back.

Henderson (8.5) - I said in last week’s ratings that if Hendo could replicate his second half performance against Brighton more frequently, he would have a lot fewer detractors and that’s exactly what he did this week. Man of the match display from our skipper in my opinion as he drove the team forward, snapped into tackles and made the kind of progressive forward passing I’ve been screaming for all season. Keep it up Hendo lad.

Fabinho (7) - Drifted in and out of the game in the first half but put in an improved second half performance. Badly needs some shooting practice though. Worryingly, went off looking like he’d picked up an injury. We could really do without that just as he’s starting to consistently make an impact on the team. Hopefully nothing major and the break we’ve got between games will be enough recovery time for him, as his importance to this team continues to grow.

Firmino (7) - Got himself on the scoresheet with a fairly fortunate, deflected goal but good to see him scoring none the less. These kind of situations were going against Bobby in the first part of the season so hopefully his luck has turned. Showed his usual graft and tidy footwork. Possibly guilty of dropping a little too deep at times but overall, a decent display from Bobby.

Mane (7) - I often think Mane looks more comfortable on the right but it was from the left that he got his goal. In a matter of minutes, we saw both sides of Mane as moments earlier he had struck tamely at Speroni but he made no mistake with his second chance as he cooly dispatched from a tight angle. Mane has the ability to be really special but he drifts in and out of games. I’d like to see him take more games by the scruff of the neck as he undoubtedly has the talent. Always a threat though and always does his fair share defensively.

Salah (7) - Another vintage Salah display in as much as he was wasteful a fair amount of the game and his first touch was absolutely atrocious for the vast majority of the ninety minutes. There can be no arguing however, that this lad changes games. He has a real strikers instinct to be in the right place at the right time and does it far too frequently for it to be luck. Scored half a point less for his pathetic dive though, which I don’t like to see. I actually think Salah has been quite harshly treated in recent weeks, as I think the accusations of diving after recent penalty decisions has been unwarranted as all his recent penalties have been rightly awarded in my opinion but he does himself no favours with that yesterday.

Keita (5) - Groundhog Day once again for Keita. Starts well with some nice touches, is frustratingly wasteful in the first part of the game and just disappears as the game goes on. I don’t think he’s being helped by Klopp however, playing wide left. He looks lost out there. He should be playing CM or number 10 for me, or he shouldn’t be playing at all. Major improvement required, especially as we now potentially have Gini and Fabinho carrying an injury, while Milner will miss the next game through suspension. Time to step up and show you belong at an elite club. Oh and while you’re at it, work on your upper body strength. I say it every week but he needs to realise he’s in the Premier League now.

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Subs:

Shaqiri (6) - Surprisingly, was probably better defensively when he came on than he was in an attacking sense. Not surprised he didn’t start after recent poor showings. Will be an important player going into the second part of the season though. Personally, I’d like to see him at number 10 behind our usual front three, playing in last season’s positions with Salah wide right and Bobby up top.

Lallana (N/A) - Ran around a bit.

Camacho (N/A) - Time wasting sub but was called into action. Good for the lad to have officially made his first team debut.

Klopp-watch (7) - Keita repeatedly starting from a wide left position. It’s not working. The lad is struggling and playing him out there is only adding to it. Why not play our usual front three and Keita at 10 where he’s more suited? We’re losing out on Mane’s pace out there as well. Other than that, no real complaints about how we set up or out tactics. It was one of those games where the manager was fairly powerless and just has to hope his team can pull it off, which they duly did.

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Summary:

In summary then, not a vintage display by any means but another vital three points. This game comes into the same category of many others this season - one we’d have lost or drawn in previous seasons to this. A far from flawless display, however I think Palace’s league position belies how good they actually are. They beat our press very skilfully a couple of times and in Zaha, they have one of the most potent attacking players in the league. Just a shame they have a dinosaur for a manager...

I’ve often commented in past seasons that if it wasn’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. The same can definitely not be said this season. We’ve had the rub of the green on many an occasion but I always remember Fergie, on multiple occasions, saying you need a bit of luck to win the Premier League... Could this be the season we finally get it?

Anyway, I said I was glad when we went out the FA Cup and the eleven day break we now have, justifies that stance in my opinion. Injuries, and now suspension have taken their toll on our squad but the break and subsequent easing of our fixture congestion before the Champions League starts again, should give our squad some much needed recovery time going into the business end of the season. In the next thirty days, we have three games. City have a minimum of five, possibly six should their cup game go to a replay. This can only be an advantage for us.

Anyway, in a week where our two flying fullbacks both signed new, long term contracts and we’ve registered yet another three points, we can only point to the positive place the club is right now. Another step closer to the holy grail. Walk on.
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