BY MATT WOOSNAM
Crystal Palace went down to a 4-3 defeat at Liverpool despite a battling performance in an enthralling clash
Six second half goals saw the hosts come out on top as Palace stalwart Julian Speroni struggled in goal.
With eight minutes played Speroni was forced into a good save low down when Joel Matip found a way past Mamadou Sakho.
Liverpool probed in the early stages but without effect, but Roberto Firmino fired a warning shot when he took aim with a curling effort from the edge of the area. It sailed comfortably over, but he was given too much space to cut inside and shoot.
In a rare foray forward, Luka Milivojevic found the run of Wilfried Zaha who took a touch and cut back a cross towards Jordan Ayew, but the striker’s header flashed across the face of goal as he failed to make meaningful contact, and an opportunity went begging.
Virgil van Dijk should have put the hosts ahead after half an hour but his header was deflected wide.
But just a minute later, it was the visitors who took the lead through Andros Townsend. A good team move saw Patrick van Aanholt play in Zaha down the left, he beat James Milner for pace and cut the ball back to Townsend who slotted home expertly.
They went into the break with the lead, but it took less than two minutes for the hosts to pull level with some abject defending from Palace.
Both Van Aanholt and Sakho failed to clear the ball, and when it came back into the area, via a significant deflection off James McArthur, Mohamed Salah was on hand to turn it past Speroni from close range.
Andy Robertson almost turned the game on its head shortly after as he drove through the middle, but his shot flashed past Speroni’s goal. Liverpool had come out of the blocks rapidly in the second half.
But it wasn’t long before they did take the lead. A free-kick was not adequately cleared, and it eventually came back to Roberto Firmino, who took a touch, unleashed a shot at goal and with the aid of another deflection, it flew into the back of the net.
The Reds had their tails up, and frequently challenged Palace’s defence with balls in behind and runs down the wing, but for the most part, the Eagles were equal to it.
Despite a mountain of pressure, they failed to add to their lead, and out of nowhere, James Tomkins rose unmarked at the back post to nod home an equaliser from Milivojevic’s corner in the 67th minute.
Milner was sent off for a second yellow card in the 89th minute when he was beaten to the ball by Zaha, and caught the winger late. His first booking had also been for a foul on the Eagles talisman.
Sadio Mane burst forward with less than a minute of normal time remaining but his deflected shot whistled past the post much to Speroni’s relief. But Mane was not to be denied and he added the hosts’ fourth in stoppage time with an excellent placed effort into the far corner.
That strike proved to be crucial as substitute Max Meyer saw the ball drop to him in the penalty area, and he struck a fine shot in to make it 4-3, but Liverpool held on to win a superb game.
This was not by any means a poor Palace performance, but Liverpool were good value for a victory.
IMAGES BY SEAN GOSLING