Liverpool: Make Your Jokes, We're Not Out Of The Race Yet
The title was a mathematical improbability beforehand, but now it’s almost an impossibility after last night's result. “Villa are better away from home,” Big Andy will do Liverpool a favour,” I hear you say, but really it’s gone. Losing to Chelsea felt like the end of our challenge, but seeing Norwich hold them to a draw made people realise that any side can slip up in the Premier League, although we didn’t expect it to happen to us again.
People were throwing around predictions like 9-0 and 6-1 pre-game, and at 3-0 on 55 minutes that looked a genuine possibility, until Liverpool eased off and let Palace back into the Game. A deflected shot from Damian Delaney and a brace from Dwight Gayle saw that three-goal lead vanish. Yes, Palace have improved under Tony Pulis, but to collapse in that manner really stings. A title challenging side should never throw away a three-goal lead.
Liverpool were brilliant on the attack at times, but once again showed their defensive flaws. It’s been highly documented that Liverpool’s greatest strength is going forward and the comparative weakness with which they defend, but it is true and it is also true that a solid defence, not just a dangerous attack, tends to win titles.
Liverpool were excellent from large periods of the game. Mignolet made a couple of top saves, Sahko looked composed at the back, Johnson was exuberant down the right flank, while Joe Allen was tenacious and even bagged a goal. Sadly, a good performance for 75 minutes of a 90 minute game isn't enough to secure three points. Johnson seemed overly buoyed by his attacking accomplishments and forgot to defend, and Lucas and Gerrard were nowhere to be seen as Palace counterattacked with the enigmatic Bolasie. Suarez was ill pre-match and looked off the pace, and Sturridge didn't seem fully fit, but Liverpool’s dynamic duo were still able to link up on enough occasions to show why they are the league's most feared strike force.
To say Liverpool were unlucky to draw would be unfair on Palace, who had chances to score and could easily have done so earlier than they did. Palace showed that they are nobody’s whipping boys (something that Liverpool fans will have to hope is also true about Aston Villa and West Ham), and that Speroni, Ward and Jedinak would be an asset to any team in the league. Despite losing to Man City, Palace do deserve praise for getting four points off the top three in recent weeks and proving that a committed side will pick up points if they have a coherent game plan.
Social media, and Twitter especially, are wonderful things for football fans, but they can really hurt on nights like this. Endless “we don’t let it slip” jokes, sarcastic retweets of naive optimism, and most bizarrely of all, the official Spurs account tweeted a Vine of Liverpool’s recent failures. All fans like to joke about other teams, and plenty of fans can take jokes about their side, but sometimes it just hurts. Some join in with the jokes, some respond with aggression, and others say nothing at all, but make no mistake: this was a result that hurt Liverpool Football Club.
It really shouldn’t though, as at the start of the season most Liverpool fans would have been absolutely made up with the scenario in which they now find themselves. Guaranteed Champions League football and fighting for the title until the last day. Going from seventh to a probable second place finish is still a fantastic achievement and should see Rodgers receive the Manager of the Year award regardless of how the final day goes. To borrow a phrase that’s been used as a dig more regularly than not in recent days, whether Liverpool win the title or not they can start next season with optimism - “We go again”.