A tightly fought encounter ended with Liverpool coming out as 2-0 winners on a difficult night for the Reds. Here are five things we learned.
Hodgson sets Crystal Palace apart from the rest
Roy Hodgson has developed a reputation for creating teams that are very difficult to beat during his lengthy managerial career. That philosophy was on clear display as he made Liverpool work hard for their 2-0 victory.
Despite having wide players that love to attack he has instilled a sense of discipline. The work rate of Crystal Palace’s full-backs and wingers stopped Liverpool from creating chances from the wide areas.
However, they also had the dynamism and athleticism to get forward when required to cause Liverpool problems. Palace particularly enjoyed themselves in the spaces between full-back and centre-back. These are the areas that The Eagles can really hurt teams this season.
Christian Benteke isn’t a prolific striker but he serves as a distraction for defenders. That allows the likes of Zaha and Townsend to find pockets of space in dangerous areas. This is where Palace will score their goals this season.
Pace is Key
Throughout last season Liverpool cemented themselves as one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe, and it was that expertise at counter-attacking that got them the three points against Crystal Palace in this match.
Liverpool tried to break down Palace on numerous occasions but repeatedly struggled to test Hennessey in goal. A penalty which Milner scored was their only clear chance in the first half. In the end, it turned out to be Crystal Palace’s best attacks that caused them the most problems.
As Palace were looking dangerous going forward and looked like they had the chance to score Liverpool launched devastating counter-attacks. Wan-Bissaka earned himself an early bath after bringing down Salah who was clear through and Mané ensured the three points after a late Palace corner.
In the past Liverpool struggled to break teams down that defended deep like Palace. However, last season they found a way to break down tight defences using their pace when the opposition eventually pushes forward. Liverpool now have the means to beat whatever is in front of them.
Toe-to-toe with some of the best
Before Roy Hodgson took charge of Crystal Palace last season they were woeful and looked to be going nowhere. Everything has changed since then though.
Against Fulham last week they recorded an emphatic victory and looked a class apart. On this occasion, they played out a very evenly contested encounter with Liverpool which is a testament to the progress made under Hodgson.
It is very early in the season but Crystal Palace look to be one of the better sides in the league. They still have an over-reliance on Wilfred Zaha though and should he get injured they will find it more difficult.
Other than injuries though, there is little to suggest that Crystal Palace will slip away. They should be in for a good season and could challenge for the Europa League places.
Liverpool’s Best Chance in a Generation
It’s no secret that Liverpool are still yet to win the Premier League title, with their last league title coming 28 years ago. However, this season may be their best chance to rectify that.
There is a great sense of optimism in the Liverpool camp going into this season with the feeling that they are capable of beating every team in the league. Things never go that way though and they will need to overcome the inevitable tough period at some point.
They will be better equipped than ever in the Premier League era for that. There seems to be a few areas where they don’t have excellent options. A new goalkeeper and midfield completely change the prospects for Liverpool having rectified their biggest problems.
Manchester City and others will have something to say about that though and the reigning champions are still clear favourites.
Milner Better with Age
James Milner has had one of the longest Premier League careers of any player and he’d be forgiven for letting his age get the better of him. However, at 32-years-old he is arguably fitter than he ever has been.
Since working for Jurgen Klopp he has been tasked with upping his fitness to fit into Klopp’s demanding style. Milner has done that in his stride. He consistently tops distance covered charts and his endurance is hard to match.
He was man of the match in Liverpool’s first game against West Ham and was relentless in closing down Crystal Palace’s midfield in this match. He prevented them from making their way up the pitch and covered every blade of grass to ensure he could receive a pass.
Since retiring from international football he has given his club career a new lease of life. If Milner continues to keep himself this fit there’s no reason why he can’t compete at the very top for another few years at least.