A dazzling reminder of Liverpool’s might: Crystal Palace carnage is an ominous sign as title tide turns in favour of Jurgen Klopp’s side
- Liverpool demonstrated their title credentials as they trashed Crystal Palace
- For so long the mood at Liverpool has been characterised by turbulence
- However, this week felt pivotal as Jurgen Klopp’s side laid down a marker
Long before the referee put an end to this carnage, rain had begun to fall over Selhurst Park. An hour prior to the final whistle, the heavens had opened and the streets surrounding this old ground were facing a deluge.
Inside, the floodgates had been smashed down by Liverpool. Now the question heading into Christmas: was this the week when the tide turned in their favour?
In what already feels like a crucial seven days in the title race, Liverpool put seven past Crystal Palace with seven different players creating a goal. It was a day for milestones.
Liverpool demonstrated their title credentials with a hugely impressive win at Crystal Palace
Never before had Liverpool won a Premier League game by seven.Never before had they won a top-flight away game by that margin.
And perhaps never before in this barmy season has the new normal felt so much like the old. Liverpool are in the groove and top of the tree at Christmas.
Jordan Henderson believed a display like this had been coming and there have been flashes of normality in recent drubbings of Wolves and Leicester.
But for so long the mood around Anfield has been characterised by turbulence and strife.
There have been some difficult moments for Jurgen Klopp’s side but the mood has changed
Liverpool’s squad have been hit heavily by injury and results have suffered. It was no coincidence Klopp referenced the 7-2 defeat by Aston Villa after they undid the damage here.
At times, the German has been driven to distraction by frustrations over substitutions and scheduling. Fortunately, this wide-open race meant that, even as space on the treatment table tightened and fixtures piled up, Liverpool were never more than three points off the pace.
But still this week feels pivotal. After Tottenham were undone by Liverpool’s unyielding spirit, Crystal Palace fell victim to their ruthless brilliance. Eight shots on target produced seven goals — two apiece for Mohamed Salah, who started on the bench, and Roberto Firmino. Henderson, Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino also netted.
Mohamed Salah showed his brilliance with two goals in the closing stages at Selhurst Park
After five away games without a win, what a marker to lay down. What a time to do it. By the end, the gulf between the teams was vast.
And yet the margins remained so fine. How different things could have looked had Spurs taken one of their second-half chances at Anfield in midweek. Or had Palace, when trailing 1-0, made their first-half pressure tell.
Instead Liverpool ended with six points and a nice lead at the top. For all the focus on their peerless front three and the absence of Virgil van Dijk, this has been the true mastery of Klopp’s tenure; the thudding, consistent ability to isolate every 90-minute challenge.
As the manager said on Saturday: ‘We have to be ready on each matchday to find a way to win this specific game.’
It was fitting, then, that after this week’s contrasting examples he moved to 127 Premier League wins — more than any other Liverpool boss.
Liverpool are in a much better position now than when Palace boss Roy Hodgson was in charge
There was a striking imagery, too, that this dazzling reminder of Liverpool’s might came against poor Roy Hodgson. His doomed Anfield reign symbolised a miserable end to a decade when the club had teetered on the brink.
Now, Liverpool are hurtling towards the 2020s with new zest in their Premier League title defence. Not that Klopp is allowing himself much festive cheer.
‘I don’t feel satisfaction or whatever,’ he said. ‘I am happy in the moment, because it was just a top game, but it makes no sense to be over the moon about something. The challenges don’t get smaller.’
He is right, of course. His players can now look forward to an eight-day break before the visit of West Bromwich but this must have felt especially sweet.
Particularly after his calls for five subs went unanswered again. Particularly given yet another short turnaround — Wednesday night, Saturday lunchtime — ended with six vital points. The worry for their rivals is how many more tiers they have to go through. ‘The majority of the season is to come,’ Klopp said. ‘We will try with all we have but we will see.’
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back from injury to provide Klopp’s side with greater options
Whatever he says, Klopp will know the signs are ominous for everyone else. His front three all found the net, his full backs were at their destructive best. Minamino scored a first League goal, Curtis Jones enjoyed another cameo.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returned to bolster their options, and Thiago Alcantara will take them to another level when he’s fit, too.
The only crumb of comfort for Jose Mourinho and Co? Liverpool’s back four will remain patched up for some time. Even questions about Salah and his pre-match comments — which suggested he might be open to leaving for Spain — brought a chuckle from Klopp.
‘All fine,’ he said. And after a week like this? No wonder.
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