Liverpool dominate Crystal Palace in 4-0 victory
On their march to their last league title 30 years ago, Liverpool blew away a Crystal Palace team 9-0. While the score was not as dominant in an empty Anfield on Wednesday, 25 June, the performance was. The Liverpool starting XI included both Mohammed Salah, their talismanic winger, and Andy Robertson, a world-class left back plucked from relegated Hull for only £8 million in 2017. They reminded fans why they are champions-elect, banishing the memory of a drab 0-0 against Everton in the Merseyside derby which reopened their title challenge.
As has been the case with many of the Project Restart matches, the opening minutes were tentative. But the passing speed and probing runs of Liverpool’s midfield and front three soon came to the fore. Crystal Palace hopes were pinned on a solid defensive display and trying to pinch a winner through the explosive Wilfried Zaha. That plan came undone however as Zaha, who had come off during the warm-up, exacerbated a calf injury and had to come off early in the first half.
Coming close to the quarter-time break, designed to ensure that playing in the heat of the summer without a proper preseason wouldn’t put too much pressure on players’ bodies, it looked as if, for all their inventiveness and industry, Liverpool would have their drinks break at 0-0. Then Jordan Ayew fouled Virgil van Dijk at the edge of the box after a corner. Much deliberation over who would take the freekick followed. Trent Alexander-Arnold won out. He got the ball over the wall before it dipped into the net to the left of a diving Wayne Hennessey.
Salah followed up just before half time after Fabinho, imperious in midfield throughout the night, dinked a ball over the Palace defence for the on-rushing Egyptian, who calmly finished off the move for his 17th goal of the campaign.
The story of Liverpool dominance continued in the second half, with two more goals. Fabinho netted for himself with a powerful, driven shot into the top right of the net after been given acres of space 30 yards out. The fourth and final goal was a crisp team move, involving all the famed front three. Firmino got the ball upfield to Salah, whose perfectly weighted first-time pass to Sadio Mane allowed the Senegalese to slot the ball into the far corner.
Liverpool chased a fifth, with the young right back Neco Williams, on for his Premier League debut, going closest. Manager Jurgen Klopp, speaking after the game, praised his team’s efforts, chasing the ball in the 86th minute despite being four goals up. In a mark of Liverpool’s dominance, Crystal Palace didn’t touch the ball in their opposition’s box in the entire game. Allison won his 12th clean sheet of the season having hardly been troubled.
Now, eyes turn to Stamford Bridge. Manchester City are the only team that can mathematically catch Liverpool. They will need to win all 8 of their remaining games, while Liverpool lose all of their 7. A draw or Chelsea victory will deliver Liverpool their 19th league title and first Premier League championship. A 30-year wait is coming to an end.