Deserved or not… Liverpool take the 3 points

Looking through social media during halftime, you could sense the panic in most fans. As the game came to a close resulting in a crucial win, not sure how many fans felt that it was a deserved win. If Salah did not do his usual trick of getting on the score sheet, it would be hard to make a case for either team if the game ended in a draw.

It was nervy as expected with Selhurst park being a difficult place to play for any team. Crystal Palace had several chances to regain the lead but could not get the goal they needed mostly thanks to Benteke’s poor form and obvious lack of confidence on the ball. Salah who is oozing with confidence at the moment showed how it can make a difference with his cool first touch followed by a clean finish. 

All the post game talk will mostly be about Salah’s scoring and perhaps my player of the match Robertson who has been a key component of the Liverpool surge in the second half of the season. During the game though there was one player who was talked about the most… Sadio Mane. Crystal Palace will feel wronged and rightly so that he was not sent off for the deliberate handball. Klopp mentioned in his post-game chat about the fact that while he should have definitely seen a card for that offense, he should not have been carrying a yellow to start with. Sadio could and should have earned Liverpool a penalty with the challenge that eventually saw him going down and seeing a yellow card for simulation. 

Was it a penalty? Yes.. If Mane was going to be punished for simulation, it should have been for poor simulation.There is obvious contact and even though I saw arguments about contact not meaning that it is a penalty, that is only true if the player tries to keep playing as Mane did. If Mane leaves his foot with the contact and goes down, it is a simple penalty. Instead he tries to keep going, realizes he lost the extra space he gained, remembers the contact he just got, and goes down… a late dive if you will.. so he sees a yellow. We want our players to keep playing, not diving, not simulating or exaggerating but yet they are punished for trying to stay honest. Time and time again we see the same challenges result in different calls based on how the forward handles the tackle. Collapse like you got shot by a sniper in the stands, you get a penalty. If you try to play through it, not only you end up losing your momentum and position, you might get penalized if you eventually realize that you should not have fought through the challenge.

Liverpool did not play and attack with their usual crisp movement and much like the first game in Anfield, struggled to create space against a crowded defense. At the end of the day, an ugly win still gets you 3 points.. just ask Mourinho…and at this stage of the year, that is all we need. It was a trap game with the Champions League fixtures ahead and Klopp will be happy with the result but definitely not the play. A similar performance against Manchester City would be disastrous but it will be a whole different game at Anfield with a City team that always looks to push forward.

Quick Hits:

  • TAA : Such a raw talent but definitely a liability with his defense. With Gomez out, Klopp will be faced with a very tough decision in Champions League. If this game was won comfortably, I almost expected and appearance by Clyne just to get in pace of the game but it was not meant to be. Does Klopp take a chance with Clyne who will struggle to get back in pace against City or go with the youngster and hope for the best?
  • Lallana: Just frustrating to see him injured again especially in a game where it felt like he was exactly what they needed. It is still not known the seriousness of the injury but definitely looked bad and would be shocked to see him back this season which would rule him out of World Cup too I would presume.
  • Zaha : What a talent going forward and so lazy coming back. Liverpool turned the game around when they remembered that he does not get back to help and TAA was wide open every time the Reds were able to switch the ball to the right wing

Player Ratings

  • Karius – 7 – Still does not give a lot of confidence but made a few good saves and his positioning caused the Benteke mishit in the first open Benteke chance. Did not need to come out the way he did to cause the penalty.
  • TAA – 6- Great going forward but such a liability defensively. Might not be fair as he was going against one of the best in the league in Zaha. Definitely a bright future but Clyne’s inevitable return looms
  • Matip – 7- Does well with VVD even though he did have a few curious clearances. In terms of bringing the ball up from defense, definitely the best pairing with VVD in my opinion
  • VVD – 7 – His mistake almost setup a Crystal Palace goal but the impact of his presence cannot be denied
  • Robertson – 8 – Player of the Match for me. Setup the second goal but his overall hard work has to be applauded
  • Milner – 7 – Yet another assist for Milner. It is obvious that he has lost a step but still contributes with his knowledge of the game
  • Wijnaldum – 5 – He was pretty much invisible all game
  • Henderson – 7 – He was the only player who even looked into switching the ball from side to side in first half
  • Mane – 7 – An enigma… He could have gotten a red and would have caused possibly a loss in this game. He was one of the few threats against a defense that was tough to break though
  • Firmino – 7 – Worked hard as always and almost not fair that it gets taken for granted now. Was just not his usual sharp self though
  • Salah – 8 – A constant threat and on the score sheet again. Every time he touches the ball, you expect something wonderful to happen.
  • Llana – N/A
  • Oxelade Chamberlain – 7 – Should have started to have that extra attack threat with his pace and aggressive movement. Paired good with TAA several times in right side to create opportunities.
  • Lovren – 7 – Solid overall especially in the air.