Number 12: “Crystal Palace dent Liverpool’s Premier League dream.”
Match: Crystal Palace 3 – 3 Liverpool | Date: 5th May 2014 | Competition: Premier League
Its games like this that highlight why I love football.
Following a dramatic loss to Chelsea, Liverpool’s encounter against Crystal Palace was always going to be an intense affair. However, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how this game would actually turn out.
The scene was set. All eyes were on this game to see if Liverpool really could keep their title hopes alive by winning their clash versus Crystal Palace while scoring many goals in the process.
Despite being level on points with Manchester City, the Reds were second in the league table as a result of their inferior goal difference. Going into their game on a warm Monday night in south London, it was clear that Liverpool had to score as many goals as possible to keep the pressure on their title rivals.
For the game, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers opted for the strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Considering the circumstances, it’s not exactly surprising the Northern Irish coach opted for the duo that had scored 53 league goals between them during the 2013/14 Premier League season.
Regarding the game itself, the opening was rather fierce between the two sides as they both attempted to score an early goal.
Within the first fifteen minutes, it was Liverpool that was closest to opening the scoring. First, they should have scored through Mamadou Sakho after the defender got himself into a free position during an early Liverpool corner. Instead, the Frenchman’s headed effort was off target by some margin. Next, an excellent ball from Joe Allen near the halfway line was met by full-back Glen Johnson but he failed to get his looping header on target.
In the 18th minute, the visitors grabbed the all-important first goal thanks to Allen. Similarly to Sakho’s headed effort beforehand, the Welshman did well to get himself into a free position during a Liverpool corner. The only difference is that he was able to get his attempt on target and Liverpool attempted to build on their lead.
For the remainder of the half, both sides were superb defensively but it was the hosts that came close to scoring the next goal of the game. Both Jason Puncheon and Mile Jedinak tried their luck from long-range positions and their efforts forced Simon Mignolet into making some impressive saves.
The game would finish 1-0 at half-time but the real drama officially kicked in, in the second half.
The visitors clearly had a goal to achieve and they pushed on quickly as soon as the half started. After just a few minutes, the drama from the first half returned after Suarez was fouled by Scott Dann in the penalty area during the buildup of a Liverpool attack. I’m not sure why Mark Clattenburg failed to award a penalty but Suarez had every right to complain about his decision.
Moments later, Liverpool came close. Sturridge got himself into the perfect position for a shot but his curled effort was pushed onto the post by goalkeeper Julian Speroni and Suarez missed the rebound.
A few more moments later, Liverpool finally had their second. A perfectly weighted long-ball from Steven Gerrard found the feet of Sturridge near the edge of the box and he did well to drive into the middle and slot the ball to the right, past Speroni.
Soon after, Liverpool had their third. Without even giving the hosts a second to deal with the scoreline, Liverpool had scored their third goal through Suarez. Sakho played a great ball through the lines to Suarez, who played a nice one-two with Sturridge to score his first, and Liverpool’s third, of the game.
The Reds continued to push on for a fourth goal but they failed to get that close again. Despite their fantastic attacking performance over the course of the game thus far, everything changed just before the 80th minute.
Following a brief passing sequence from a Crystal Palace free-kick, Thomas Delaney reignited some confidence in his teammates after his deflected long-range effort beat Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
With the score at 3-1, the away side opted to push further up the field in the attempt of grabbing another goal. But, this proved to be their downfall and it was Palace’s turn to score a quick goal of their own. Liverpool’s high line was exploited by winger Yannick Bolasie on the counter-attack. Not a single Liverpool player was able to keep up with him during his exceptional run and he did well to square the ball across to Dwight Gayle to score Palace’s second goal of the game.
After another few minutes, the game officially turned on its head. A perfectly weighted ball from Scott Dann in his own half was met by the chest of Glenn Murray who, in turn, played in Gayle to score the all-important equaliser for the Eagles.
The reaction from the crowd was thunderous, the comeback from Crystal Palace was motivational, and this particular moment will forever be etched in history.
My Overall Thoughts:
This was a fantastic game of football. While I completely agree that this fixture is overrated, I can’t help but love it at the same time. Although the game didn’t mean much in the end, the overall drama from Liverpool’s early lead to Crystal Palace’s comeback to Dwight Gayle’s late winner made this game stand out to me.
The last fifteen minutes from Crystal Palace was simply incredible to watch and there are some moments from this game that will always stick with me.
Watching this game back, it really puts into perspective how drastically Liverpool has changed in the past five years. I remember talking to people about how their team should have won the Premier League and they were unfortunate not to. From an unbiased perspective, this team was great to watch going forward and I remember how well the likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, and Steven Gerrard performed during this season.
I still find it surprising how quickly this team would collapse over the next two years and yet they would still be able to rebuild under Jurgen Klopp and go on to win the Champions League.
Going back to the game, even though it is overrated, it was also extraordinary at the same time.
For the first 60 to 70 minutes, Liverpool was just on top of their game. They were getting the crucial goals they needed, continued to press, and continued to get chances in good positions. But, those last fifteen or so minutes just changed everything and made this game memorable for completely different reasons.
Crystal Palace’s resilience and determination to get a point from this game was memorable. In most circumstances, a team would have given up by that point and accepted defeat. Instead, Palace continued to push forward and eventually exploited Liverpool’s defensive weaknesses to get back into the game.
While it was the Chelsea result that ended up being the turning point in the title race, everything could have changed if Liverpool kept the result as it initially was. The pressure under Manchester City would have been different and they could’ve slipped up too had the Reds got a better result on this night.
Lastly, without being too repetitive, this game, once again, consisted of two things I love seeing in football – a comeback story and a late goal.
It’s games like this that couldn’t have played out in a different way and it’s games like this that show why I love football.
As part of this series, I also wanted to learn about different thoughts and feelings that other fans had to this game. While I’ve previously discussed my love for this fixture and why it was included in my “Matches of the Decade” series, I also think it’s beneficial to learn and hear the stories from people that have a deeper connection to the game in question.
With that being said, I was fortunate enough to talk to two Liverpool fans about their experiences with this game and this is what they had to say:
Sam – Liverpool fan.
“Just a week after the infamous slip and a massive blow in the title race, I knew we had to get all six points in two games to have a slim chance to win the title, even on goal difference.”
“Coming into this game, I felt that we had to score four or five for any way back into this title push but that was easily mistaken. This was an inform Crystal Palace team under Tony Pulis who kept Palace up and he [Pulis] is a guy who would love to rain on a parade.”
“Having missed a catalogue of chances in the first half and only leading with a Joe Allen header in the corner, I knew this scoreline was not enough. As soon as it was 3-0 with a one-two from Sterling and Suarez, on the 55th minute, I grew in more confidence until Delaney scored a deflected goal to make it 3-1, I knew we were in trouble.”
“From hoping that we would score four or five to be happy with three points, I saw our team crumble under my very own eyes and when Dwight Gayle got past a terrible piece of defending from Martin Skrtel. 3-3. I knew it was over. This was the match that I knew we fully bottled it. We rode our luck with 12 consecutive wins carried by Luis Suarez, in a very poor defence. To be top of the league until the 37th fixture was devastating, I was heartbroken. I genuinely thought we would win the league after beating City 3-2, but to concede 50 goals is far from acceptable in any title race.”
“As they say; attacks wins you games, defence wins you titles.”
“It was probably the darkest day of football for me, up there with Kiev and possibly any other final we’ve lost. After full time, I turned off my phone, didn’t check anything on social media or speak to anyone in a depressed manner knowing we were 24 years without a title.”
Joel Rabinowitz – Football writer and Liverpool fan.
“To be honest, I’ve always thought the significance of this game has been overplayed in general because of how dramatic it was with Palace scoring three times in the final twelve minutes.”
“But really, even if Liverpool had won that day we would have still ended up losing the title on goal difference to Man City, which if anything would’ve been even more painful. The 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Anfield before that is the one that really killed our challenge.”
“I was at Selhurst Park for the game, and as much as it was impossible, Liverpool was going all out for goal difference and as a result just left the back door open for Palace to exploit, which they did. Of course, it was excruciating at the time, but Chelsea was the one that cost us.”