Signs of jitters emerge at Liverpool, but that’s a bit secondary at the moment
You could tell by Jurgen Klopp’s celebrations after full-time, not just that they were so passionate and roaring, but also because those roaring acts of passion came not immediately the whistle went, but a few moments after. There was relief, that Liverpool had gotten over the line in the most nervous of ways; but there was also joy, that another hurdle had been cleared, that with 15 games left, the Reds have a four-point gap ahead of the rest in the league. No matter how it happened, victory did.
And who’d begrudge Liverpool choosing to overlook the fact that win was far from convincing, particularly given that this was against a Crystal Palace who, a month, rained at fellow title challengers Manchester City’s parade. It looked to be going in the same vein at halftime at Anfield, as Andros Townsend, the man who scored in that win at City in December, gave the Eagles the lead. Liverpool went into the break behind at home in a league game since Leicester had a halftime lead in early 2018, and while their responses this season hasn’t been any prerequisite for panic, it was wide of the mark for the fans to have been feeling a little antsy, after all Palace had beaten City, and were the opponents in that famous game that marked the Reds’ title collapse in 2014, and are managed by Roy Hodgson, who’s far from popular in Stanley Park; all roads seemed to lead to a tragic story.
So it was to their credit, and also testament to their fortitude and calm this season, that they dragged themselves level 56 seconds into the second half, and eight minutes later went into the lead, thanks to Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Palace levelled once again, but Salah put them back in front, thanks in no small part to an error from Palace’s veteran goalkeeper Julian Speroni. By the time Max Meyer scored for the visitors, Sadio Mane had taken the game beyond them and given Liverpool three more points.
Yet this game would encourage champions and chasers Man City, as for the first time Liverpool looked very shaky, every time Palace, it looked like something would happen, and James Milner getting sent off in stoppage time just about epitomised the fact that Klopp’s side were far from comfortable. Much has been made of the improvement in Liverpool’s defence, particularly since the respective arrivals of Virgil Van Dijk in defence early last year, and goalkeeper Alisson last summer, they hadn’t conceded more than once in a league game until the start of this calendar year. But the fact that they’ve conceded five league goals in three games in that time perhaps offers a note that Liverpool have seemed stern at the back mostly because opponents haven’t quite knocked on the door this term; having the best defence doesn’t mean you’re the best at defending.
That might seem like a chink in their title-hunting armour, that they can still be got at, that like City, for all their acts of putting the opponents on the back foot, when pressed, they are also spooked. Or maybe they’re starting to look a little jittery at the back because the pressure is starting to come, that the league looks the sole target this season (they’re already out of both cups, although they’re still very much in the Champions League). Maybe the weight of expectation is growing bigger, as it was almost inevitably going to be. Either way, there looks to be a hole in Liverpool’s Death Star that could cause an implosion.
Then again, either way, Liverpool are still top, are still four points clear and still have a margin for error. Whichever way it happens, they seem to win, and make those who wait for them to crack wait a bit longer, as they continue in their bid to end their own wait.
It was the most comprehensive and routine of wins as Manchester City went to Huddersfield – who are under caretaker boss Mark Hudson – in a game where the champions could afford to be quite below par and barely be threatened. It is now one point in ten games for the bottom-placed Terriers, but relegation will be by no means catastrophic. And they can also take solace from the fact that when Sky is around, every fan is a potential manager.
Harry Kane injured. Son Heung-Min on international duty. Lucas Moura also sidelined. This was an opportunity for Fernando Llorente to demonstrate his worth to Tottenham as he led the attack. The Spaniard scored…at the other end, as Spurs went to Fulham. Thankfully for him, it wasn’t disastrous, as goals from Dele Alli and Harry Winks gave Spurs their first ever league win over Claudio Ranieri, whose side are still very much in the bottom three, and can’t defend.
Six league wins in six for Manchester United, who are enjoying life under their new manager, as the previous one continues to point the finger at everyone else for his failings at the club.
It was a big win for Arsenal, as they closed the gap on Saturday’s opponents Chelsea to three points in the race for fourth place. Blues boss Maurizio Sarri criticised his players’ lack of desire afterwards, as they looked listless in attack. Their season looks to be regressing.
A seven-goal thriller – I’m almost obliged to say – at the Molineux, a Diogo Jota hatrick, and a 4-3 win for Wolves at home to Leicester, to put the visiting manager Claude Puel under more supposed, and quite frankly overblown, pressure.
Newcastle scored three. At home. In a football game. Did Rafa buy the club already?
Bournemouth 2-0 West Ham
Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff
Liverpool 4-3 Crystal Palace
Southampton 2-1 Everton
Fulham 1-2 Tottenham
Huddersfield 0-3 Manchester City
Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea
Watford 2-0 Burnley
Manchester United 2-0 Brighton
Wolves 4-3 Leicester