Dubious Var decision halts Crystal Palace's stirring fightback to hand Liverpool three points

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Fabinho - Dubious Var decision halts Crystal Palace's stirring fightback to hand Liverpool three points - GETTY IMAGES
Fabinho - Dubious Var decision halts Crystal Palace's stirring fightback to hand Liverpool three points - GETTY IMAGES

It might be premature to speak of a fully reignited Premier League title race but, following Manchester City’s rare slip on Saturday, one familiar challenger is, at least, still smouldering dangerously beneath the surface.

City’s run of 12 consecutive wins has already seen off pretty much every threat to a fourth triumph in five seasons but, with this 3-1 win, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool narrowed the gap to nine points which, with a game in hand and a trip still to the Etihad Stadium, does, at least, provide a realistic ray of light.

Goals from Virgil van Dijk and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain had put Liverpool into a seemingly unassailable lead but, on the ground in which they so famously squandered their chance of the 2014 league title, they then wobbled and ultimately only sealed victory following a hugely controversial 89th-minute penalty.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the second goal - GETTY IMAGES
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the second goal - GETTY IMAGES

A solid defence has been the foundation on which Liverpool have stringed together positive results without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane during the Africa Cup of Nations but it was their incisive attacking play, described by Klopp as some of the best he has seen from his team, which was most eye-catching here. With the midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Curtis Jones assuming control of possession, Trent Alexander-Arnold and especially Andrew Robertson were being granted licence to flow forward in a virtual 2-5-3 formation that initially overwhelmed Palace.

Vicente Guaita had replaced Jack Butland in the Palace goal and was quickly called into action when he turned Henderson’s shot around his right-hand post for a Liverpool corner.

Robertson stepped up and, with his out-curling delivery floated perfectly to the edge of the six-yard box, Van Dijk arrived completely unchallenged to power his header past Guaita. The absence of any nearby Palace player made it difficult to pinpoint responsibility but Jeffrey Schlupp, who was closest as Van Dijk surged into the penalty area, was especially statuesque.

Virgil van Dijk - GETTY IMAGES
Virgil van Dijk - GETTY IMAGES

Robertson remained an enormous threat down Liverpool’s left and, with Palace full-back Tyrick Mitchell often dragged inside to deal with Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s late runs were persistently dangerous.

Palace had already survived one early warning when Oxlade-Chamberlain stabbed a chance into the side-netting, but he did not make the same mistake when a second opportunity presented itself from an almost identical position. Robertson had once again delivered a cross beyond the entire Palace defence and, having controlled the ball expertly on his chest, Oxlade-Chamberlain finished with his left foot past Guaita. Palace were aggrieved - Mitchell had darted inside to shadow the offside Firmino and leave Oxlade-Chamberlain in space - but a second goal was fully reflective of Liverpool’s dominance. Their possession had topped 75 per cent but, as half-time loomed, defensive frailties also became evident.

After just two full days to recover from beating Arsenal in their League Cup semi-final, Klopp suspected that his team were so relieved by their start that they wanted “a break on the pitch”. Joel Matip was especially vulnerable against a rapid and constantly interchanging Palace front three of Michael Olise, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Odsonne Edouard and, having squandered possession to Olise, was only rescued by Alisson’s outstretched leg.

Palace resumed after the interval just as they had ended the first half, with Olise’s pace, touch and movement ensuring that Roberston was finally pinned back. Schlupp’s midfield influence was also growing and he created Palace’s next chance, deftly cushioning his header into the path of Edouard, whose improvised backheel was well saved by Alisson.

A Palace goal felt inevitable and Schlupp then had the composure to pick out Mateta - who was just onside - rather than Edouard who had just drifted offside. Both players surged towards Alisson’s goal, with Mateta then calmly rolling the ball back to Edouard for a simple finish.

The goal certainly rallied Selhurst Park and, with the stands physically rocking, Liverpool were forced to withstand an intense period of pressure. Joachim Andersen shot narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area and Olise then forced Alisson to scramble backwards for another important save after he had been caught off his goal line.

Diogo Jota ran into Vicente Guaita and, although the referee gave no foul, this was overturned on Var to give Liverpool a penalty - GETTY IMAGES
Diogo Jota ran into Vicente Guaita and, although the referee gave no foul, this was overturned on Var to give Liverpool a penalty - GETTY IMAGES

A Palace equaliser was looking more likely than Liverpool’s third but Alexander-Arnold then delivered a wonderful crossfield pass. It had dissected the entire Palace defence to put Jota behind Joel Ward and, while Liverpool were fortuitous to win a penalty following Guaita’s innocuous challenge, Fabinho calmly sealed an important victory from the penalty spot. “It could have been a draw - I’m over the moon - it’s so important,” said Klopp.

04:28 PM

This is a lovely read

My six decades as a Crystal Palace fan – and how the beautiful game has changed

04:03 PM

Match report will follow above

I'll keep the blog going for a few minutes just in case PV4 goes rogue! You can also follow our Chelsea vs Spurs live blog here.

03:59 PM

Full time: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 3

A really enjoyable game until VAR intervened. The Palace players express their feelings to the referee. Vieira is now pacing after the referee Kevin Friend so he can have a wee word in his shell as they head under the stand.

Dave Jones: "And we know how scary he can be in the tunnel."

Roy Keane: "He's always had a bit of a temper!"

03:57 PM

90+ mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 3

That's knocked the stuffing out of the crowd. Although the Palace players, in fairness, continue to ask questions. I just cannot understand why people want to have VAR. Like, if you can catch a clip of that foul in real time and then say with any confidence that the ref got his call clearly and obviously wrong, then, well, good luck I guess.

03:53 PM

90 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 3

Impossible to see how Palace come back now, so just a few minutes until we can get to the real business of a Premier League football match in 2021-2022: highly paid former footballers sitting in a TV studio arguing about slow motion video clips.

03:50 PM

GOAL! Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 3 (Fabinho 88 p)

What a shame. Unjust penalty. Jota had lost control of the ball, and ran into the Liverpool keeper. After a long, annoying delay, the pen is given. And the reliable Fabinho tucks it away.

03:49 PM

87 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

"Who is the Scouser in the black?" sing the crowd.

Penalty given.

Patrick Vieira is doing his crunch.

03:48 PM

86 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

The VAR check drags on. The referee is going over to the monitor. "That is very ominous for Palace. I don't think it is happened this season that a referee has stuck with his decision," says Carragher.

03:46 PM

84 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Wouldn't be a really enjoyable football match without a lengthy delay for a VAR check to interrupt it. Long, lovely pass from Trent AA, Jota onto it, he goes down in the area under the attention of the keeper. He kind of bumps into the keeper. "I don't think that's a penalty," says Jamie Carragher. "This would be very hard on Palace. It's just a coming together."

03:40 PM

79 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Palace continue to press. Firmino is booked. Olise is nearly through. Now Schlupp is booked. Referee is a busy bee these last few minutes.

03:36 PM

76 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Ayew and Benteke are coming on. Mateta and Hughes are off.

03:34 PM

75 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Ooof. Olise and Jones jump for the ball, horrible landing for Olise who lands on his head and neck. Ref has to stop the game. "Who's the Scouser in the black?" sing the Palace fans, not for the first time this match.

03:33 PM

72 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Can Liverpool get a hold on this? Here's a calmer move from them. Trent Alexander-Arnold delivers a deep cross in. Headed back across. Dealt with.

03:29 PM

70 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Palace continuing to ask questions. Liverpool clinging on here. 5 shots for the hosts this half. Two for LFC.

03:29 PM

69 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Schlupp sends Eze clear down the left and keeps on keeping on for the return ball. Surges into the area and so nearly gets on it. Just runs into too much traffic.

03:27 PM

65 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Liverpool press, harass Palace. Guaita - whose distribution has been less than stellar - hoofs it out.

03:25 PM

Smokey

Palace steward
Palace steward

03:23 PM

64 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Palace continue to throw the kitchen sink at Liverpool. Henderson urges his men on; the Palace fans chant and bay.

03:18 PM

59 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Klopp needs to change the momentum here, and takes off Oxlade-C. Minamino on.

03:15 PM

57 mins: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Palace come again. Their fans roar them on. Here is Andersen, driving forward and drilling it wide of the post.

03:14 PM

GOAL! Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2 (Edouard 55)

It is played forward by Schlupp, excellent defence splitting ball. Mateta receives it, carries it forward, he's got Edouard running alongside him. It's two versus Alisson, Mateta unselfishly opts to lat it off, Edouard can't miss.

03:11 PM

52 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

Liverpool seem to be in control again.

Ox plays it in. Henderson controls it, spins, and shoots. Wide.

03:08 PM

49 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

Liverpool with some heavenly long range passing there, really lovely to watch.

Gallagher booked for shoulder-barging Fabinho.

03:06 PM

47 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

And now it's played in again from the right. This time it Edouard who gets the ball in the area, controls, and tries a clever backheel. Alisson the hero again! Excellent save. Oooh, Palace. They've had the best chances and yet nothing to show.

Alisson Becker of Liverpool saves a back heeled shot from Odsonne Edouard of CPFC - Getty
Alisson Becker of Liverpool saves a back heeled shot from Odsonne Edouard of CPFC - Getty

03:04 PM

46 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

Palace are the first to show. Rapid, dangerous break down the left, it is crossed and there's Gallagher! Oooh he should have done better with the header there.

03:01 PM

Half time analysis

Palace defended far too narrow, their back four allowing a ton of space on the outside for Alexander-Arnold and Robertson. Predictably, the delivery from these two was excellent, and soon Liverpool were two up. Having looked in control, the visitors suddenly stuck it in neutral, and nearly gifted Palace goals by giving the ball away, twice

Virgil van Dijk scored the opener - Getty
Virgil van Dijk scored the opener - Getty

02:50 PM

Half time: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

But blow it does.

02:50 PM

45 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

Liverpool's level has flat-lined, having been imperious, they are now scruffy - and it's actually the hosts who don't want the half time whistle to blow.

02:48 PM

43 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

VAR followers - they've shown on telly that Firmino was offside for the second goal. He jumped to try and head the ball as it sailed over to the Ox. Either you think he was interfering or not, I guess.

02:45 PM

42 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

Oh, Alisson got a touch as Mateta slotted the ball under him. The corner is cleared.

02:44 PM

41 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

Another blunder from Liverpool! This time it is Firmino who loses it cheaply. He also has passed it straight to Olise! What's up with that - are they muddling Olise up with someone? There are lots of ex Liverpool guys in the Palace squad today I suppose. Anyhow, Olise breaks, slips it forward to Mateta, who goes around the keeper and tries to slot it in from the acute angle. Rolls agonisingly wide!

02:41 PM

37 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

Ooh there's the chance for Palace. Awful blunder from Matip as he just plays the ball across his own defence, picking out Olise, who surges forward, shifts it, and unfortunately hits his hard low shot at, or too near to, Alisson. Good reaction stop but the forward could probably have made the keeper's task impossible.

02:39 PM

35 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

Moment of encouragement for Palace here when Gallagher nearly gets free in the Liverpool area. I've enjoyed young Conor Gallagher this season, the lad on loan from Chelsea. Looks a real jack-in-the-box type, loads of enthusiasm and energy.

02:36 PM

32 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2

When I say that the Palace back four are too narrow, I mean that there is space for both Robertson to have his way down the left, but also acres on the right for Trent AA and Ox. That is surely a flawed gameplan from PV?

02:34 PM

GOAL! Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 31)

Another fine piece of play from Liverpool, powerful in its simplicity. Robertson picks it up on the left - the Palace back four seem very narrow - and they have lost the Ox behind them at the far post. Robertson picks him out, Oxlade-Chamberlain controls and has far too much time to steady himself and tuck it away.

If Palace can come back from here, it will be a truly exceptional rally.

02:30 PM

29 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1

Liverpool with another corner, from the right this time. Mateta heads clear Alexander-Arnold's delivery.

02:29 PM

27 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1

Liverpool looking well up for this, their press is ferocious. Every time a Palace guy has it, he's swarmed and swamped. They just cannot get out.

02:26 PM

24 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1

Jota receives the ball in the box and cuts it back, Fabinho - who has had his shooting boots on of late - hits the shot crisply but well. That was Liverpool's 8th attempt already, albeit only two have been on target. Palace no attempts thus far.

02:23 PM

22 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1

Palace more in the game now than in the first ten mins or so.

02:22 PM

20 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1

Super Palace move, Ward with the cross and Mateta hits it crisply. Wonderful save from Alisson, who could not have known that this would shortly be flagged offside. Which it was.

02:18 PM

15 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1

A rare incursion into the visitors' half, but that flounders for Palace when Edouard produces a weak and wet cross.

02:13 PM

11 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1

(Yet another) brilliant delivery from the marvel Robertson, and here is the Ox at the back post not quite able to bundle it in.

Poor old Palace are getting a proper roasting.

02:12 PM

10 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1

That goal a fair reflection of the balance of play so far, and there is no let-up from Liverpool after it.

02:10 PM

GOAL! Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 1 (Van Dijk 8)

Oh dear. A hard whipped corner in from Robertson on the left - Andersen has lost Van Dijk, who rises splendidly to bullet in the header about from six yards out, near post.

Andersen's already difficult task was made even harder because his own man, Schlupp, got in his way, turning into an inadvertent blocker.

VVD
VVD

02:08 PM

7 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 0

But Liverpool keep the pressure on, and have a corner.

02:08 PM

6 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 0

Palace do not fully clear a corner. Matip nods the ball back in, and Jota is nearly through. All hands to the pump for Palace, they half clear, Henderson back in... eventually the home side just about get it clear.

02:07 PM

5 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 0

Neat, crisp move from Liverpool as they find space between the lines. Trent Alexander-Arnold swings a deep cross in from the right, lovely control from Curtis Jones to kill the ball and play it back to Robertson. His shot/cross is neither fish nor flesh and a good opportunity goes begging.

02:05 PM

3 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 0

Will Hughes with a foul, about 40 yards out. Trent AA swings the ball in, Palace deal well with it well.

02:02 PM

1 mins: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 0

Typically passionate and frantic start, classic Barclays.

02:01 PM

Kick off !

Palace in their correct colours, Liverpool in white with black shorts.

Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell, Gallagher, Hughes, Schlupp, Olise, Edouard, Mateta. Subs: Butland, Milivojevic, Ayew, Eze, Clyne, Benteke, Kelly, Ferguson, Riedewald.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino, Jota. Subs: Konate, Milner, Gomez, Minamino, Tsimikas, Gordon, Kelleher, Neco Williams, Morton.

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

 Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park in south London on January 23, 2022 - AFP
Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park in south London on January 23, 2022 - AFP

01:58 PM

This is one of

two games in hand that Liverpool have on the leaders Man City. If they win them both, they'll be just six points behind. 'Just',

01:54 PM

Right then

Fancy Palace? Not sure. Be nice to see an upset. As ever, an excellent atmosphere at Selhurst.

01:53 PM

The most memorable Palace vs Liverpool moment of the recent past?

Liverpool's English midfielder Steven Ge...Liverpool's English midfielder Steven Gerrard (R) shepherds Liverpool's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez (L) from the field as he reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park  - AFP
Liverpool's English midfielder Steven Ge...Liverpool's English midfielder Steven Gerrard (R) shepherds Liverpool's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez (L) from the field as he reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park - AFP

01:42 PM

The managers speak

Patrick Vieira on the 3-0 loss at Anfield earlier in the season:

We created enough chances to score a couple of goals. But... we needed to be more ruthless in the defensive aspect. That was something that was unacceptable at the time. Conceding those goals was quite frustrating.

Klopp speaks on whether he thought about any more changes from the two he makes:

No. The rhythm we play now from Thursday to Sunday is a normal rhythm which we like. I'm really pleased that Ox is available again. He trained the last two days... can play. There was no doubt that [Alisson] would come back.

01:40 PM

Jurgen Klopp hails 'insane' Trent Alexander-Arnold and hits out at defensive criticism

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says there is no player in world football like Trent Alexander-Arnold and berated enduring claims the full-back lacks defensive prowess.

01:35 PM

Premier League table

01:35 PM

My six decades as a Crystal Palace fan – and how the beautiful game has changed

And another good piece here by Mick Brown on his time supporting Palace.

01:29 PM

How Liverpool have relied on rock solid defending without their star attackers​

Bit of analysis on Liverpool's defence here from Mike McGrath.

Can they shut out Palace today? Yes. Will they? Probably...

01:08 PM

And now Palace

01:07 PM

Liverpool team news

11:48 AM

Good afternoon

Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of today's Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has played down the absence of key Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane for today's meeting.

The visitors today will again be without their two main attackers, who are away competing at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

It will no doubt boost Palace, who lost 3-0 to Liverpool in September with the pair on target - both hit doubles against the south London outfit last season, too.

Jurgen Klopp's side have coped well without Salah and Mane, winning three of the four games they have missed to progress in two cup competitions and move up to second in the Premier League.

Vieira said: "Liverpool is a team. It is not just about those two players they are missing.

"Obviously with those two players they are stronger but there are still a couple of players who are playing well with fantastic talents, so the best way to describe this team, before talking about individual talents, is to talk about the team - and this is a strong team."

Diogo Jota stepped up in the absence of Salah and Mane on Thursday to fire Liverpool to a 2-0 win away to Arsenal which booked a spot in the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley next month.

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp does not expect his side to repeat last season's heroics away at Crystal Palace when they smashed the London side 7-0, saying on Friday that that huge win was a "freak of nature".

Klopp said that Palace had found stability under Vieira and that he expected a battle against a tough side who sit 11th in the standings.

"That (7-0 win) was a one off. These days happen, it's a freak of nature and it doesn't happen usually," Klopp told reporters ahead of Sunday's match.

"They've changed and improved. They look like a really stable team now. It's a really good Premier League team with a few really unlucky results, I would say."

Klopp said midfielder Harvey Elliott could return after the international break, having spent almost five months out of action due to ankle surgery, and that midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is training again and could rejoin the squad on Sunday after recovering from an ankle injury.

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