CRYSTAL PALACE 1 – 2 LIVERPOOL
Liverpool progress in the FA Cup once more, claiming a Quarter Final place in the competition we want to win pretty badly this season.
It wasn’t easy (but anyone who says a match in competitive football is easy is kidding themselves, they’re all of a difficult standard at this level of professional football), but we managed to overcome an opponent who have proven themselves to be quite challenging to deal with.
Last season as Liverpool played Crystal Palace in May 2014 as the title race was getting very competitive (Liverpool had just been beaten by Chelsea and the points they lost from that stage of the season were vital to chances of winning the league), the Reds took a three goal lead over their opponents by the 55th minute. Attempting to simply defend and hold their lead for the rest of the game, they didn’t really continue to attack much more with half an hour to go. Crystal Palace would accept that Liverpool were unlikely to score another goal and then continue to hit them with attack after attack. In the final ten minutes of the game they managed to score three goals in 9 minutes, from the 80th minute to the 89th with Dwight Gayle scoring two of them within 7 minutes. The referee would eventually blow his whistle for full time and it was like Luis Suarez already knew that the points we had dropped (as we got a draw instead of a win, 1 point instead of 3 points) were going to cost us the league title because he just burst into tears and had to be consoled by several of his teammates including Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard and Kolo Toure as he left the pitch.
It turned out eventually that he was right to be so upset because Liverpool did not manage to win the league, missing out on it by only a couple of points (and we had dropped 5 points to both Chelsea and Crystal Palace) by the time the last game of the season had been played. Had we held out for a single point against Chelsea (or maybe even just accepted our loss and moved on) and then won this game against Crystal Palace, we would have had enough points to win the Premier League for the first time since it was created in 1992. Fate decided to be cruel and not allow us to do this. Manchester City would move ahead of Liverpool in the league and Chelsea sat just behind us in 3rd place as the season ended, laughing as they realised the damage they had done to our title challenge.
So as you can see, there has been some real history between the two clubs. Some might say “revenge” would be appropriate for Liverpool, that they would deserve a victory in this game as payback for taking those vital points off Liverpool in the 2013-2014 season which ended so tragically for Reds fans.
The manager would not be able to use Jordon Ibe in this game as he was “cup tied” (he had been playing for Derby County earlier this season and you’re not allowed to play for more than one club in the same Cup). Steven Gerrard had been recently injured as he limped off the pitch in the Tottenham game we won so he will not be available to select until his hamstring is not bothering him any more. Raheem Sterling also got injured quite recently (in the Everton game) and will not be chosen for the first team squad again until he’s fully fit, too. Lucas Leiva is on the injury list aswell, we won’t see him play again for more than a month.
We still seemed to have a fairly strong side, despite all the players we have out and currently can’t use. Daniel Sturridge has returned to the fans delight and we have seen him score twice since his comeback to the first team. Balotelli also has been on top form recently, getting goals and even creating assists for his teammates, which have led to our victory. He’s really starting to matter to the squad. Having a player that does these things can be vital to the claiming of as many points as we can get.
The first half didn’t go so great. It was quite end to end football, with Liverpool having some chances which just weren’t taken properly. Sturridge would miss an opportunity to score early on as in the first couple of minutes, Lazar Markovic provided a cross for him, but Daniel couldn’t find the back of the net with his shot. Coutinho and Allen would both have shots on the edge or our opponent’s penalty box blocked as they were fired but met by Crystal Palace defenders who weren’t giving Liverpool’s attackers the space they needed to get a sight of goal and attempt their chance to score. There was some scrappy football where we had to fight quite aggressively, just to win the ball in midfield and getting past the defenders once we had done that wasn’t so easy either. We would not score any goals in the first half and our opponents would be the first to take a lead before the break.
About 15 minutes into the game, Dwight Gayle would have a chance to score a header. He would strike the ball with his head, it would then be saved by Simon Mignolet but the Liverpool goalkeeper could not hold onto the ball and it rebounded out to Fraizer Campbell who took his opportunity to score as he struck a right footed shot past Mignolet and into the net. Crystal Palace 1 – 0 Liverpool.
The first half would have half an hour left to play, but the same struggles and battles in midfield continued and the frustration of not being able to get a shot off was building as it happened again and again. By half time, Liverpool still would not have scored but we of course never give up, till the very final whistle of the game.
Brendan Rodgers decided to make a chance at the half time break and the substitute would be vital to Liverpool’s “comeback” in the second half… Credit to the manager for deciding to bring off Lazar Markovic and replacing him with Mario Balotelli… SUPER MARIO!
Mario set the new pace of the game, providing passes to several areas of the pitch and making runs that couldn’t be stopped. I don’t like criticizing players but previously, Mario has on occasion looked to be a bit “lazy” – NOT making runs, NOT helping his teammates with passes, just waiting for the ball to come to him instead of moving to the ball himself. Well, all that laziness seems to be gone. He’s not just Mario any more, he’s SUPER MARIO! The more energetic, helpful and dangerous Mario that can’t be stopped if he wants to do something.
I think he looks happier right now, too. A positive mental attitude can be helpful, we certainly don’t want our players to be miserable. He’s smiling occasionally and seems to be satisfied with the team he’s playing in now. He did look a bit sad and not exactly enthusiastic about being in the Liverpool first team in some games he had played. Well, hopefully he is just getting to have some enjoyable experiences as his performances get better and better and he becomes a more valuable asset to the squad. Like he’s actually worth the £16M we paid for him.
It took Liverpool only 4 minutes to find a goal in the second half. Jordan Henderson would direct a very accurate pass from the edge of the Crystal Palace penalty area and as the ball came over to Daniel Sturridge, he didn’t even let the ball touch the ground, he struck it in mid-air and confidently place the ball directly into the net with his left foot as their goalkeeper watched because it was just too powerful to save. Crystal Palace 1 – 1 Liverpool.
Daniel and Alberto Moreno would have fun dancing together shortly after the goal. Some fans were saying at the time “best part of the game: DANIEL AND ALBERTO DANCING!”. Good times!
The score was now level and something better than possibly seeing that dance was on the way, eventually. The winning goal of the game!
Ten minutes later, Balotelli would make himself very useful as he made another of his dangerous “unstoppable” runs… he was only stopped by a player fouling him and bringing him down to the ground in fact. Mario would take the free kick, which was very powerful. The ball sped with power towards the goalkeeper who couldn’t hold on to it. The ball would be saved but rebound out to Adam Lallana who was patiently waiting for his chance to put the ball right into the net! GOAL! Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Liverpool.
Big love and lots of credit are due to Mario Balotelli for his part in this goal. Not only did his initial attack draw the foul from the Crystal Palace defender but his free kick that was saved by the goalkeeper was the lead up to Lallana being able to put the saved ball into the net. Without Balotelli, the goal simply wouldn’t have happened. THANKS, SUPER MARIO! You might not have put the ball in the net yourself this time, but we still love you for how you helped us get the winning goal of the game and now we can progress in this competition, as one of the eight teams left in the FA Cup. That’s partly due to YOU, Mario! We’re grateful for that.
Liverpool would continue to attack and never really seemed like letting up. We didn’t go into a defensive mode of tactics (as Everton or Chelsea would perhaps do and have done in their games) but continued our attacking play. Though no more goals would come, we still had done enough for getting the win. “Revenge” was ours, if that’s what you wanted. Sweet victory in a competition that the fans want to “win it for Stevie”.
Liverpool’s next game in around 4 days will now be a European competitive fixture (yes, we’re still playing in a European game despite being knocked out of the Champions League) against Turkish side Besiktas in the Europa League as we attempt to make our way past the last 32 in a knockout round. Liverpool cannot afford to be defeated in this competition, as it will destroy all hopes of winning the trophy. They will all be “must win games”, right up until the Final (if we can make it that far).
I hope you’re happy, Reds fans. I am. I look forward to the coming fixtures we have to play and it’s getting to an exciting stage that could bring major disappointment or GLORY! Draws aren’t any good now, we’re looking to win as many games as we can continually. The success of Liverpool’s season will be riding on the results so keep your eyes on the players. We are likely to see some great football in the near future.
YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE, Anfield Family!
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so i was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (about 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.
I’m a die hard Liverpool fan (only supported ONE club in my whole life, Liverpool) and one of the most dedicated fans you’ll ever meet.