Yes the penalty was soft for sure and while D Delaney’s knee did seem to slide into C Benteke’s heels the contact was probably minimal, and only Benteke would know whether that was sufficient to trip him over. But let’s not let the penalty distract you from two really poor decisions by Crystal Palace in the immediate lead-up to it. In the 93rd minute of the game Palace won a freekick in their own half and instead of keeping possession they hit an aimless long ball straight into the arms of S Mignolet. A minute later when J Henderson released Benteke inside the box what was Delaney doing going onto his knees and sliding in like that? Benteke was going nowhere really. All Delaney needed to do was to run with Big Ben and try to block the cross in. So we got lucky indeed with the penalty call but Palace contributed just as much to their own defeat.
Most significantly we displayed a steely resolve to not just play, but play positively, right till the final whistle with a man-down since the 60th minute. Mentally the team is clearly getting stronger and stronger. And so we have now won three league games in a row and the latest victory finally ended our dismal record at Selhurst Park where we have not won since 1997!
Our very own Jekyll and Hyde, Mignolet, had a good game and made a world class save in the 6th minute diving bravely at the feet of Y Bolasie after a fastbreak from Palace. (And we all know Palace plays really effectively as a counter-attacking side because of the pace and strength they have on the wings with W Zaha and Bolasie.) But besides that incident the first half was really flat from both teams. Just to point out how boring the stalemate was i think R Firmino hit our first shot on target only around the 60th minute! Henderson had yet another average game and i wonder whether his heel injury is troubling him too much.
Anyway besides A Moreo who did well today, always getting his foot in as quickly as he can to not allow Zaha any time and space on the ball, D Lovren and E Can really bossed the game for us. Right from the start Lovren looked really up for it. He was aggressive in his defending and closed-down well whenever he saw the chance to. In the 81st minute, he sprinted a third of the field just to make a sliding tackle on P Souare who was caught dallying on the ball and although his subsequent cross was blocked, Lovren’s determination clearly rallied the Liverpool players and fans. Lovren was to end the game with 5 aerials won (Topping the table together with S Dann), 5 tackles (Topping the table again together with M Jedinak and Moreno), 10 clearances (Topping the table with M Sakho in second place with 7) and 1 interception. Slowly but surely, we are starting to see why Lovren was bought for £20 million from Southampton.
Can was to carry his good form from the two games against Citeh into the Palace match and he was imperious in the middle of the field. Making 1 attempted shot, 1 key pass, 1 clearance, 68 accurate passes (Second behind only Hendo with 78), 5 dribbles (Topping the table more than Zaha or Bolasie), 4 interceptions (Second behind J Ward with 5) and 2 aerials, Can played a massive part in our comeback victory. To be honest i wanted Can to take the penalty in the dying seconds, because come on we all know Germans are awesome at penalty. Evidence? He was the only Liverpool player to score from the spot in the League Cup Final and he is German. Anyway it all turned out well because Benteke showed some big cojones to slot the penalty home after sending A McCarthy the wrong way. Although i got to say i’m not a fan of this stuttering run-up nonsense. Just keep it simple, run up and hit it hard and low for god’s sake.
Lastly, as a hilarious aside, when Palace won a corner in the 51st minute i saw three of their players lumbering into our penalty box. E Adebayor (191cm), Delaney (191cm) and Dann (188cm). And then i saw Moreno (170cm), J Milner (175cm) and A Lallana (173cm) trying to get into position to defend. Are we not a team of Hobbits? (Who as we know saved the world in the end.)