LFC Toronto Match Review: Crystal Palace 0 – Liverpool 0

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Match Review: Crystal Palace 0 - Liverpool 0

Fresh from being crowned Premier League champion, Andy Robertson released his book in September 2020 looking back at the memorable title-conquering season.

Fellow Scot Sir Kenny Dalglish did not take long to launch some hilarious banter, jokingly dubbing the book as “a great sedative”.

After watching this match at Selhurst Park, one might be left wondering if our King Kenny would still need Robbo’s book in order to have a good night's sleep on Saturday.

A hesitant and error-prone Liverpool and a rather limited Crystal Palace were a potent mixture to turn this Premier League encounter into an antithesis to edge-of-the-seat football.

After the unbelievable mid-week turnaround by Real Madrid in the Champions League, a big reaction was expected from Liverpool, especially against a Palace team still on the prowl for its first league win in 2023. Even more so, the London side has been missing its leading scorer, Wilfried Zaha.

In his mid-week post match analysis, Jurgen Klopp highlighted the need to ensure the mental fallout of the Madrid result would not spill over in the domestic quest for a top 4 finish.

What unfolded in South London on Saturday led some Scousers to wonder why they even bothered to have made the long trek from Merseyside.

Like Brighton again but without the goals.

It was again one of those days when Liverpool’s defence and midfield were losing possession too easily but to their good fortune this time, Palace were unable to capitalize .

Did the starting XI play a big role in this? A few eyebrows were inevitably raised when the initial midfield was found to be made up of Henderson, Keita, and Milner.

Where would the engine room energy come from? Two elder statesmen and one player who has sadly been on the treatment table too often did not quite inspire confidence, particularly in view of Liverpool’s Achille heel having been the midfield itself this season.

Naby Keita was unexplainably playing with fire. After getting a yellow card on the 23 rd minute, he kept fouling the opposition and referee Darren England must have exerted quite a dose of self-discipline for not dishing a second yellow to the Guinean.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was also having a bad day at the office and he cut a very frustrated figure in the battlefield. His miss-passing the ball compounded a defensive play that we all know could have been better.

At the other end of the pitch, the Reds look devoid of any clear-cut battle plan when going forward. Utterly surprising given the non-negligible frontline of Jota – Gakpo – Salah.

To be fair, all three of them did carve out chances but there was hardly that gut feeling that the ball would end up at the back of the net.

Diogo Jota had a go on the 18 th minute from the edge of the box but his long-range strike was easily gathered by Palace keeper Vicente Guaita.

On the 22 nd , a Robbo free-kick saw Joel Matip crossing from the right and Jota headed against the post from an impossibly tight angle. Twenty minutes later, Mo Salah had his trademark breakaway but at the end, Guaita simply caught the Egyptian’s curler from 10 yards out.

On the other hand, it would not have been a surprise if Palace were in the lead at half-time.

Marc Guehi had a free header on the 24 th and he lodged it just wide Alisson Becker’s right-hand post. Keita could have capped a miserable afternoon with an own goal on the 40 th but thankfully, the ball flew just wide Ali’s right post again.

Just before half-time, Jean-Philippe Mateta hit the crossbar after Jeffrey Schlupp had nicked the ball from a
hesitant Trent.

More energy needed

Clearly changes were required for the second half. Harvey Elliot came in for Keita and the introduction of the youngster added some impetus to Liverpool’s play which saw Salah hitting the crossbar on the 49 th after a somewhat better constructive team action in midfield.

But soon after it was again back to the same old first-half rhythm until the 81 st minute when Salah put through Kaita. It could have been an ultimate smash-and-grab but frustratingly the Dutchman put it wide instead.Earlier that Saturday, Liverpool U21s thrashed Leicester City 7-1 as Ben Doak ran riot with a hat trick. We’ve all seen the enthusiasm that the young Scot brings to the team in his handful of appearances in January. That was exactly the energy and motivation which were sorely missing among the senior players against Palace.

It was also another match where the absence of Darwin Nunez was acutely being felt. It would have been a different ball game if Palace were to deal with the chaotic Uruguayan thundering down the left wing, creating chances and not hesitating at having a go at goal himself.

This goalless result again all boiled down to a glass half-full or half-empty debate: On the one hand, it was still one point gained towards the quest for top 4 and a third domestic clean sheet in a row.

On the other, there’s the question of how long our Liverpool side will take to recover from the shock of the mid- week Champions League. There are 15 Premier League games left and Liverpool are still trying to find their footing despite the occasional glimpses of their own old self.

In 2020, Robbo’s book was aptly entitled “Now You’re Gonna Believe Us”. At the end of February 2023, let’s hope it won’t become an even bigger stretch to convert back the doubters into believers in this particularly wretched season.

Mike Chung.