The first home game of the season brought newly appointed Frank De Boer’s Crystal Palace. Many expected a more open style from the Eagles and for them to be swept aside by Klopp’s tricky Reds. Instead, it was a hard fought, tense game, with few chances for either side.
The first half saw Liverpool dominate possession but lack quality in the final third. At times, it was like a repeat of a game from last season. What spark there was came down the left from debutant Andy Robertson, who gave a strong performance despite a shaky start. His crossing caused all sorts of problems for Palace, but they were rarely read by his teammates. A perfect cross was eventually met by Matip after Hennessey missed it. Somehow, he headed wide. Palace almost took the lead themselves on the break, with Puncheon left open for a Benteke pass. His shot was straight at the on-rushing Mignolet. It was a nervy moment that had many Red buttocks clenching together. Roberto Firmino’s blistering shot was met well by Hennessey’s palm, keeping the tension thick as the teams went in for half time.
Liverpool looked lively to start the second half, pressing higher and faster, but Palace survived the storm and stabilized the game. Another Firmino shot teased the top corner but went wide. The chance of the game came for the visitors. Ragnar Klavan got a little too tight to his man, allowing him to turn on to the goal line and square to Benteke. Bookmakers everywhere were preparing to pay out on their first goalscorers. Mortgages were staked but somehow, the net didn’t burst with an emphatic finish. It blazed over the bar and into the Anfield Road end full of relieved Reds. It gave Liverpool the kick they needed. Salah was introduced for a quiet Sturridge and the Egyptian went close with a curling effort. The sub that made the difference was Dominic Solanke. When a Mane attack broke down, Solanke persisted, closing down Scott Dann prodding the ball against his shin and into the equally persistent Sadio Mane’s path, who slid in and slotted it home.
The relief on the players faces was evident. Even Klopp was stern, turning Mane’s celebrations away. From then on, Liverpool were in complete control. Robertson went close with a stinging drive while Palace killed their own threat with short corners and several offsides. It was clear they’re a team adapting to a new style of play. They contained Liverpool well for 99% of the game and but for that one moment, they probably would have got the point they wanted. Benteke could have snatched them even more. He was very quiet thanks to Klavan and Matip. Gomez was also quietly efficient at right back. Nathaniel Clyne is going to have a hard time getting his place back with Our Trent and Joe looking this good. Milner was solid and steady if uninspiring going forward. Mane was a constant thorn and his goal summed the game up. It was a very satisfying three points. Scrappy, but happy 😀