Christian Benteke did not have much fun playing for Liverpool, but it is carnival time every time he faces the Merseyside club.
The Crystal Palace striker took his career tally against his former club to seven as the latest Sam Allardyce survival act edged closer to another successful climax. The last time Benteke scored against the Anfield side he was defeating them in an FA Cup semi-final, precipitating the beginning of the end of Brendan Rodgers’ reign.
His two goals here have the potential to scupper Jürgen Klopp’s Champions League ambitions. Those previous seven had involved embarrassing Martin Skrtel. This time, Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren seamlessly adopted the Skrtel role.
There was no frenzied celebration from the Belgian as he accepted some respectful applause when substituted late on. He opted for a statuesque ‘here I am’ pose, first in front of the Kop when he equalised in the first half, and then after a winning close-range header in front of his own fans. His point was made as Palace won at Anfield for a third consecutive year. “I was motivated, I would say,” Benteke said. “I respect Liverpool but what happened when I was here is behind me and I was really looking forward to helping my team-mates.”
Rodgers was so accustomed to seeing Benteke bully his side that he paid £32.5 million for the Belgian in his last truly meaningful act as Liverpool manager.
Klopp took over and promptly decided the striker was a poor fit for his vision of high-octane football, barely starting him in the Premier League.
Pair Benteke with Palace – who have mastered the art of achieving results against Liverpool at stages in the season that inflict the most psychological harm – and this result bordered on the inevitable.
Palace were the first club to beat Liverpool in the Klopp era last season. They also wrecked Steven Gerrard’s farewell league appearance in this stadium, and they are still singing about that 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park in 2014 – the night Luis Suárez was in tears as the title race ended.
Liverpool’s top-four hopes are not yet extinguished, but there is as much chance of Klopp’s side finishing sixth as third if they cannot find some immediate cures to persisting ailments.
“On the corners, everyone knows Liverpool are pretty weak, they conceded six off corners which we told the lads about. It’s now seven,” said Allardyce of the winning goal.
“With our limited possession, we exposed Liverpool’s weaknesses time and time again and I give the players huge amount of credit for the way they defended and how they exposed the weaknesses of Liverpool defensively which in the end they couldn’t cope with. If I could have had a bet then I would have bet on him [Benteke] scoring.
“Liverpool at home play a superb attacking style in terms of football which means that both full-backs will go right up the pitch. It is very similar to Arsenal which means [Joel] Matip and [Dejan] Lovren are very exposed.
“Because they are very exposed in that position, if you get the right runners in behind then they are two big men that don’t like turning and going back to goal.
Liverpool certainly looked vulnerable at the only hints of pressure.
The equaliser was a consequence of the first time Palace had gone beyond Liverpool’s backline, with a looped pass from Joel Ward to Yohan Cabaye enabling the Frenchman to pick out Benteke in the 43rd minute.
Benteke’s second began with a mishit corner by Andros Townsend which somehow fell to the striker six yards out for an easy header 16 minutes from the end.
“Christian Benteke is an outstandingly good striker, especially if you leave him like we did,” said Klopp. “But if you leave him alone like we did for the first goal I am not sure he needed all his skills for this goal. It makes no sense to leave him alone.”
Liverpool had led thanks to Philippe Coutinho’s 24th-minute free-kick, a rare moment of home excellence in another of those scruffy, difficult games that Klopp had predicted when his injury list expanded four weeks ago. This was an afternoon where the manager’s clenched fists were welcoming feisty tackles and interceptions from his side rather than free-flowing moves.
Playing ‘ugly football’ is not so easy with Coutinho in this mood, but Liverpool managed it. Having been tripped by Cabaye, the Brazilian stepped up to dip his 25-yarder past Wayne Hennessey.
The Liverpool fear of being struck by a series of counter-attacks subsided. They then contrived to surrender a position of relative control.
Coutinho was trying his best to rouse the Kop. But as the nerves grew, Palace waited for the mistake and – as has so often been the case here – Liverpool obliged.
They may now have made one too many to return to Europe’s elite. “I know a lot of people think the Champions League slips through our fingers again. Only if we let it slip,” said Klopp.
“We have to squeeze everything we can from this season. I am used to nothing more in my life than getting up after a knock. I spoke to the boys after the game and said we have to feel it today and now we have to recover from this. There is one month to go, four games, and we will not give up.”
Thank you and good night
We'll call it a day there, spectacular result for Palace, potentially disastrous for Liverpool.
Match report online shortly and then it's everybody's favourite festival of diving about and conning the match officials as Real Madrid host Barcelona.
Thanks for your company.
Champions League place in peril
Real body blow for Liverpool who remain third but with Man City two points behind and Man Utd three, both with two games in hand - the Manchester derby is on Thursday night this week.
Jurgen is with us, to a very loud backing track from Chaka Khan from the Palace dressing room: "You can hear it, music in their dressing room, no music in ours. Crystal Palace are a good side, anybody who didn't know that knows it now. We dominated the game, I think that was clear. It's not easy in a game like this to create chances.
"The goal before half time, I know what happened but I don't know why. The second goal we missed the ball at the near post. Then they put a lot of bodies in the box, it was difficult.
"It was a definite penalty on Coutinho, in midfield it's a free kick."
What a result for Palace
In the first week of February Palace lost 4-0 at home to Sunderland and 1-0 at Stoke. It extended their run to two wins in 14 games.
Since then they've won seven of nine, including at Chelsea, at home to Arsenal and now at Liverpool - just a second home league defeat of the season for Klopp's side. They go twelfth, seven points clear of the drop zone with a big goal difference advantage.
Time on ball (at full time)
Average touch positions (full time)
Full Time - Liverpool 1 Palace 2
That is it. And stop calling me Surely.
Andros Townsend, great second half, wins a free kick on halfway. That's it surely.
You could have done an oil painting of this goal kick in the time it's taken Hennessey to take it. Liverpool have been desperate rather than structured in attack though, Palace have coped well to this point.
Townsend switches off, Moreno is in, should do better with the cut back but it's a corner. Hennessey punches it up in the air, it's a full on panic, Origi takes too long to shoot, Schlupp gets a receipt with his free kick.
Allardyce's chewing gum has been reduced to a pebble. Klopp looks like a man who picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
Palace are going to play this stoppage time with ten. Puncheon is trolling Alexander-Arnold over a throw in, that's shifted another 45 seconds. Allardyce is all arms and swearing.
Grujic has just absolutely annihilated Tomkins. Call it frustration if you like but that was a horror tackle and he's lucky to only be booked. Physio just bagging up the scattered remains of the Palace centre half and then we'll have six minutes of added time.
Well the good news for Liverpool is Benteke is being taken off, so that particular torture is over. Applause from all four sides of the ground, which is feels.
Palace have six players in a straight line within the width of their penalty box, then three more just in front of them. Liverpool cannot, and don't look like they're going to, pick their way through. Coutinho hacks over from silly range.
One sub left for Big Sam, so still time to bring on that second goalkeeper. It's the visitors who look more likely to score again though, Benteke just offside as Townsend seeks him out at the back post.
Grujic on for Clyne for the home side.
James Milner off, Moreno on. Palace are bringing on Damien Delaney, holding a plank of wood with a nail in it, for Cabaye.
5 - Christian Benteke has scored more PL goals at Anfield as a visiting player (5), than he did as a Liverpool player (4). Mindset.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 23, 2017
Allardyce into action immediately, summoning Patrick Van Aarnholt, Gareth Southgate, Chris Coleman and Eric Young from his bench. Wilfried Zaha is withdrawn. Flat back nine now.
Klopp has also had a rummage through his bench/creche and is bringing on Trent Alexander-Arnold wearing 66 to replace Dejan Lovren, whose unhappy afternoon has come to an end with a whack on the side of the bonce from Benteke.
Time on ball (60 - 75 min)
GOAL! Benteke scores again!!!
Christian Benteke's second of the game, from close range after Lucas, Lovren and several others stood by and allowed that corner to bounce right through the six yard box.
James Milner to the rescue after Townsend strips Lovren of the ball and sprints into the clear blue water beyond. It'll be a corner...
This will please him more. Clyne fouls Zaha wide left and Palace will now have a chance to put good ball right into the heart of Liverpool territory.
Liverpool clear once, Puncheon sees a shot blocked, ball bobbles around for a bit, suddenly Benteke bundles it through to Cabaye who's in behind and only eight yards out but fires over.
Sam Allardyce has just delivered an absolute volley of red-faced, purple-nosed, spit flying invective in the direction of referee Marriner. Went on for a good 30 seconds. Crucial throw in awarded against Palace midway inside the Liverpool half.
Firmino shot deflects wide off Tomkins, goal kick awarded. The time wasting is getting pretty blatant now.
Palace currently lining up with a flat back six. Liverpool need to see more from Origi, Wijnaldum and Firmino - if they can find half a foot of space anywhere.
Time on ball (45 - 60 min)
Lucas cuts the visiting defence apart with a great pass. Firmino seems to pull his foot away as Hennessey rushes off his line.
Milivojevic yellow carded for a trip in midfield. Incessant Liverpool pressure.
Coutinho with a header (do not adjust your sets) deflects kindly to Hennessey.
Operation Anfield Exercise is "all clear" apparently. A relief to all.
On that earlier Georgi Kinkladze impression from Coutinho, he was very clearly kicked on the back of the leg by kelly as he was about to shoot but elected to stay on his feet to try and shoot. Should still be a penalty. If we want to stop players diving, we've got to be more willing to give them penalties for fouls that don't necessarily chop them to the floor.
We're commencing Operation Anfield Exercise apparently. Nobody has moved.
Secret handshakes - the rebellion continues
The disdain Sammy Lee has for this at the end is my favourite moment of the season. pic.twitter.com/8EeaBR5HRN— Jack Pierce (@Jackpierce88) April 23, 2017
Coutinho, past Puncheon, past Ward, past Tomkins, rides a trip, might be a penalty, past a fourth, Coutinhooooooooooo...
Coutinho picks his way through a crowd on the edge of the box but fires over. Great feet, terrific performance from him so far, he looks the most likely for the hosts.
Schlupp puts the afterburners on, flies through to banks of Liverpool defenders on a 50 yard dash, wins the first corner of the second half. Liverpool clear easily enough.
One very ropey sandwich later, and we're back. Palace have a big cuddle prior to kick off.
Half Time - Liverpool 1 Crystal Palace 1
Decent game. Palace looked content to stay deep when it was 0-0. That plan was blown out of the water by Coutinho's wonderful free kick.
But Liverpool have been slack at the back, and Benteke's equaliser on his old stomping ground was probably just about deserved.
Time on ball (first half)
Average touch positions (half time)
We'll have another two minutes. Benteke makes the most of more poor Lovren defending to get a volley away at Mignolet. Liverpool fans getting a bit restless now - "is this the Emirates" ringing out from the away end.
Secret handshake alert
All the best people have these, everybody says so. Benteke goes through his routine with Sakho, who's still a registered Liverpool player and is down on the bench despite being ineligible to play.
1-1: Christian Benteke scores the leveller for Crystal Palace.
You've angered him Marriner you fool. Cabaye down the right, Lovren out of position, Benteke free as a bird at the back post to hammer it into the roof of the net and equalise.
The shot count is similar
Liverpool and Crystal Palace are evenly matched in attack so far - the home side have fired in five shots to the visitors' five.
39 mins Benteke booked for diving
None of this 'simulation' nonsense, Benteke sees yellow from Marriner for a dive. A big dive. Except it's not, it's just a 'coming together' with Lovren and he goes to ground with the natural momentum of the move. Not a penalty, but not a yellow, harsh.
38 mins Miss of the season contender?
Not quite sure how Emre Can has done this. Lovely ball from Milner frees Wijnaldum into the area, he's got time to pick out a man in the area and he does exactly that. Can strides onto it, unmarked, 12 yards out, pretty central, goes with his wrong foot and side foots it straight back out to Milner on the touchline.
"I'm back now Bob." Well that's a relief.
3 - No Premier League side has conceded more direct free-kick goals this season than Crystal Palace (level with Everton). Beaten.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 23, 2017
Jamie Carragher, whose microphone had been making him sound like he was broadcasting from the Mersey Tunnel using a yoghurt pot and a length of string, is suddenly back with this insight: "Should I just stay off comms here?"
Benteke heads weakly at Mignolet and that set piece comes to nothing.
Free kick specialist Wayne Hennessey launches a big one into the Liverpool penalty box towards Tomkins and although the hosts clear Firmino gets caught in possession in a bad area (as opposed to all those bits of the pitch where it's good to lose the ball) and Palace have a corner.
Palace get caught down their left, Firmino can't produce the right final ball having been played clear in the right channel of the penalty area. Plan A starting to get picked apart, wonder what Plan B might be?
Time on ball (15 - 30 min)
Milner with a teasing cross, just too high for Origi on the edge of the six yard box.
Philippe Coutinho scores for Liverpool to make it 1-0!
Absolute bloot. Coutinho curls it over the wall, past Hennessey and into the corner of the net from 20-ish yards. Goals in three consecutive Liverpool home games for the Brazilian for the first time.
First bit of work to do for our refereeing colossus Andre 'Dre' Marriner who waves away Firmino's appeal for a free kick wide left. Joel Ward sportingly gives the ball straight back to them and this time Liverpool do get a free kick for a foul on Coutinho on the edge of the box...
Crystal Palace hit back
Crystal Palace register their first shot, in response to two so far from Liverpool.
20 mins - Benteke goes close
Benteke about a foot away from haunting his former club - tricking his way through the Liverpool midfield like a man half his height and twice his ability before curling wide of the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Liverpool are dominating the ball so far
Liverpool are letting the ball do the work - they've had 197 touches compared to just 107 for Crystal Palace.
Palace look like they might be caught, for once, without significant numbers at the back during a Liverpool counter but Wijnaldum gets the ball caught under his feet, Countinho feeds Milner and his cross is clear.
Jamie Carragher tells us: "That's where they miss Mane, that's where he comes alive."
Time on ball (0 - 15 min)
It's been a shot-shy start to Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Tense opening quarter of an hour at Anfield, as Liverpool and Crystal Palace struggle to get shots on goal
In news that won't come as a great surprise to anybody, out of possession it's a deep, tight, narrow back four for Palace with two central midfielders directly in front of them. Tight as a mouse's waistcoat back there. Liverpool trying to counter this with width.
The first meeting this season finished 4-2 to Liverpool at Selhurst Park with five goals in the first half. If that happens again here I'll give you the money myself.
First spell of Palace possession in the Liverpool half comes to nothing as Wilfried Zaha finds himself caught under an overhit cross.
Tomkins heads Liverpool's first corner of the day away. No news on a flying banner - droning noise could have just been some Chris Sutton punditry on reflection.
Milner with the cross from the left, Wijnaldum turns and shoots in the area, Palace get a block in and clear. Don't want to be the one to break this to you, but I can hear the familiar drone of a light aircraft overhead...
And it's live. Liverpool defending The Kop in the first half. If you're watching in black and white, Palace are in the all yellow kit.
Ok the teams are out, Clyne and Benteke facing their former clubs, significance at both ends of the table.
Quick blast of Gerry and the Pacemakers, round of handshakes before they all start trying to trick penalties out of each other, and a word from Ray Winstone then we'll be off.
Five minute warning
We're nearly ready to get underway here. Sam Allardyce says his team aren't safe, despite their recent form. "At this time of season you never really take into account what people on the outside say. We've got to try and gain some points here today, the teams at the bottom won yesterday, it'll go right to the end."
Klopp, meanwhile, has been explaining how fixture lists work: "I don't know if they desperately need the points, there are four games to go. We cannot start choosing our opponents, that's how it is. It's a home game, I would like to feel the power of Anfield."
Burnley 0 Man Utd 2
Early Premier League fixture finishes 2-0 to Man Utd with first half goals from Martial and Rooney at Turf Moor. They are now fifth, three points behind Liverpool with one game in hand which will become two the very second we kick off here at Anfield.
That 57 is 17-year-old striker Rhian Brewster of whom German Jurgen says: "It’s the bench we have. Harry Wilson could have been on the bench. Ragnar Klavan with a little bit of pain, could have been on the bench. Rhian Brewster did really well last week and he is a natural striker, if we need it. It is not sure that we will bring him on because Marko Grujic can play this position also, but we don’t have a lot of options so that’s our squad and everything is fine."
Eyes down look in
In 'The Game's Gone' news, Liverpool have a 57, 58 and 66 among their subs this afternoon.
Less remarkably, the lesser spotted Loic Remy hasn't made the Palace bench. Sightings welcome...
Palace missing key man
Much of Palace's recent fine form has been built on the form of centre half Mamadou Sakho who, as a loan player from Liverpool, is inelligble this afternoon.
To widespread disappointment, Sam Allardyce has resisted the urge to pick himself - shirt sleeves rolled up, 1970s football shorts, picture the scene - as his replacement and has recalled James Tomkins instead. Devastating. Patrick Van Aarnholt is fit enough to return to the bench.
Oddly, Liverpool have been short at centre half themselves having loaned Sakho out. Klavan is out having not trained but Lucas and Matip are fit to start.
Teams are in...
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Lucas, Can; Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Fermino; Origi.
Subs: Karius, Gomez, Grujic, Moreno, Brewster, Woodburn, Alexander
Palace: Hennessey; Ward, Tomkins, Kelly, Schlupp; Milivojevic, Cabaye; Puncheon, Zaha, Townsend; Benteke.
Subs: Speroni, Van Aarnholt, Delaney, McArthur, Falmini, Sako, Campbell
Hello, good afternoon and welcome. It's wonderful to be back with you as we gather together to sift our way through this afternoon's exciting 0-0 draw between Liverpool and Crystal Palace.
Big Sam's Big Survival Bid is well underway, with Palace winning five of their last seven including victories over Chelsea and Arsenal. But wins yesterday for Hull and Swansea mean they're still only four points away from the drop zone with six to play.
Liverpool's sticky spell seems to be over, unbeaten in seven with five wins now, but with Man Utd winning with plenty to spare at Burnley they've only got a three point cushion in the Champions League spots.
Team news coming right up...
Liverpool v Crystal Palace - all you need to know
What is it?
It's the Premier League clash between Liverpool and Crystal Palace.
Where is it?
It all takes place at the home of Liverpool so Anfield.
When is it?
It's this Sunday April 23, 2017.
What time is kick-off?
At the unusual time of 4.30pm.
What TV channel is it on?
Sky Sports 1 will show live coverage of the clash or, alternatively, you could bookmark this page and follow our rolling blog.
What is the team news?
Liverpool's injury crisis has worsened with defenders Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Lucas Leiva all doubtful for Sunday's fixture.
They are already without influential midfielders Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson as they attempt to consolidate their top-four spot that would guarantee another Champions League campaign, although the former could be in line to return against Watford on May 1.
Defender James Tomkins and striker Loic Remy are expected to feature at Anfield, according to manager Sam Allardyce.
With on-loan Liverpool centre back Mamadou Sakho ineligible, Allardyce is pleased to see Tomkins available as a defensive reinforcement after he recovered from a calf injury.
Midfielder James McArthur and full back Patrick van Aanholt could also return to the starting lineup at Anfield after coming on as second-half substitutes against Leicester City last weekend.
Remy has endured a stop-start season on loan from Chelsea, making only seven appearances because of injury, but has recovered from a calf strain and will be back in contention for the first time since a late substitute's appearance in the 1-0 defeat at Stoke City in February.
What are they saying?
Jurgen Klopp on facing ex-player Christian Benteke:
"When the ball is in the air Christian is a major threat. We felt it a lot of times here.
"If we let them cross 50 balls it's pretty likely he will have some dangerous headers.
"But if you only concentrate on Benteke, you have (Wilfried) Zaha and (Andros) Townsend around him. That is one of the best offensive lines in the Premier League."
"We're in Champions League form for picking points up, which should give us a huge amount of confidence on Sunday. Hopefully we can be good enough, big enough and brave enough, and confident enough to try and repeat what we've done (in impressing) against Chelsea and Arsenal recently."
What are latest odds?
Liverpool to win 1/2
What's our prediction?
Liverpool have been on a great run of form recently and are unbeaten in seven games. Palace, on the other hand, have already surprised Chelsea and Arsenal and will be continuing to fight for their league survival at Anfield. We're going for a lively 1-1 draw.