Unanticipated anguish leaves Liverpool's title hopes hanging by a thread

Liverpool have a mountain to climb in the title race (AP)
Liverpool have a mountain to climb in the title race (AP)

A week is a long time in football, and seven days of wholly unanticipated anguish have severely harmed Liverpool’s hopes of lifting silverware in Jurgen Klopp’s final season at the helm.

Last Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford was the one that got away for the Reds — their dominance untold by the final score-line. But twice in the last four days, a return to their trusty fortress of Anfield has thrown up shock defeats that threaten to ruin Liverpool’s once oh-so-promising campaign.

Just as Thursday’s 3-0 Europa League pummelling here at the hands of Atalanta, precious few saw Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace coming. It hands Arsenal and Manchester City genuine boosts in their title charge but was all of Liverpool’s own making.

It must be noted that Klopp’s side dominated this contest from start to finish, but their failing here was in failing to make good on any of the 21 shots they struck towards the unbeatable Dean Henderson’s goal.

Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez will wonder how they allowed the Palace keeper to smother their first-half shots from right under his nose.

More terminal for Liverpool’s hopes of a positive result here were Curtis Jones’s two inexplicable misses after the interval. Only former Liverpool man Nathaniel Clyne stood between the Jones and a gaping goal for the first — he struck into Clyne — and then he ran through one-on-one with Henderson but somehow fired wide.

When there was a delay on 77 minutes as the fourth official tried and failed to get his electronic board working for a Palace substitution, Klopp, his players, and their adoring fans were left seething vocally — feeling the heat.

It only ramps up after this defeat, settled by Eberechi Eze’s early goal.

During his nine years at Liverpool, Klopp and the Liverpool supporters have shared so many unforgettable nights and incredible moments, but this was incredible in quite the opposite way. Liverpool’s unbeatability at Anfield has ditched them at the very most inappropriate time.

Palace were the victors, of course, but the real winners are Manchester City and Arsenal, whose title hopes were boosted no end.

Perhaps the worst indictment of Liverpool’s startling inability to finish was that, by the final ten minutes, their clear-cut chances stopped looking like such. It never looked as though it would go in for them — and it never did. How quickly Anfield cleared out.