Scott Groom explains how Liverpool’s nerve-wracking win over Crystal Palace at Anfield on Saturday demonstrates how far the Reds have come over last year.
Nobody could have predicted a 4-3 scoreline between Liverpool and Crystal Palace this weekend, and neither could anybody have predicted the crazy manner in which the game at Anfield panned out.
It was a topsy-turvy, error strewn game in which Liverpool were far from their imperious best but still, somehow, managed to grind out a win to ensure they remained outright leaders in the title race.
Even though, for large parts of the game, Jürgen Klopp’s Reds dominated possession and territory in the game, they were largely lacking a serious threat, with Firmino, Keïta and Mané all particularly quiet.
And it wasn’t just in attack that Liverpool struggled, as they conceded more than two goals in a game for the first time all season in the league, and at stages looked disastrously close to losing their first home league game since Palace took three points from Anfield back in April 2017.
All was well come the final whistle though, and upon reflection, the three points are really all that matter as Manchester City stay hot on the tails of the Kopites.
However, it should not be ignored that Liverpool were not just below par on Saturday – they reverted back to the more chaotic, nerve-shredding Liverpool of 18 months ago, when coming up against teams like Roy Hodgson’s genuinely worried fans as to whether or not the team were going to throw three points down the drain.
It was evident from the first time that Palace launched a counter attack on Liverpool’s defence – there was a nervousness that’s seemingly been irradiated in recent months and a fretful approach to clearing the lines.
Set pieces once again proved to be a rollercoaster, with Palace getting their second goal direct from a corner, and causing problems from a few other dead ball situations.
It was a return to the ‘you score three and we’ll score four’ mentality to winning games that were synonymous with Klopp’s early reign at Anfield, rather than the recent pragmatism and maturity his side have shown in closing out games.
It was the first time this season against a lesser opposition that I was scared to watch, fearing that we were going to let City back within an instance of regaining first place in the league.
But once it was all over, and my heart rate had returned back to something representing normal, I realised that this was a timely reminder of how far this team has advanced under Klopp’s guidance.
Only on rare occasions like Saturday do we bare witness to such a leaky defence and all round sloppy play – it was such a shock to the system because of the style of football that Klopp has made the norm with this team.
Gone are the days of utter panic at every corner, free kick and counter-attack. Gone are the days of fear that we would slip up against Palace at Anfield.
This Liverpool team has come so far in the last three years, but this result will prove that they need to keep improving if they’re to get their hands on the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.