Benteke (42′, 74′)
The Reds returned to Anfield after what “felt like eight weeks” to Jürgen Klopp for another important game for their top-four challenge. Liverpool looked to pick up maximum points to secure their place in the Champions League next season, whereas Crystal Palace are avoiding a place in the Championship next season. An important game for both sides.
Despite the “injury crisis” Klopp was facing, two of the three injured at West Brom were available, meaning he could play an unchanged line-up.
Academy striker Rhian Brewster joined the bench after a season of outstanding progress with the U18s and U23s but did not make his senior debut.
The first half
Crystal Palace came to Anfield looking to add to their current run of five wins from their last seven games – including wins against Chelsea and Arsenal.
Former Reds striker Benteke was worryingly close to putting the Eagles ahead with just 21 minutes on the clock, but the opening goal came from Philippe Coutinho.
Neat footwork from the No.10 outside the box drew a foul by Luka Milivojevic and the Brazilian took command of the free-kick opportunity to brilliantly curl a shot over the wall, past the reach of Wayne Hennessey and into the top left corner. Wonderful.
Palace were rattled by the concession and Divock Origi might have done better with a glancing header before James Milner snuck into space from left-back and was dispossessed by Jason Puncheon as he looked to shoot.
Emre Can also missed a clear chance before the break.
In the closing moments of the first half, Crystal Palace equalised. Yohan Cabaye latched onto a clipped ball into the right channel and quickly cracked an inviting delivery across the face of the goal, where Benteke was waiting to finish into the roof of the net. 1-1.
The second half
Coutinho had already driven a left-footer over the bar before a passage of play unfolded that the Brazilian will still be baffled did not conclude with his second goal.
A fast-paced dribble reminiscent of his effort in the Merseyside derby earlier this month carried him within yards of goal, saw Martin Kelly perhaps commit a foul and James Tomkins eventually block Coutinho’s blast as he lost balance.
Lucas almost picked out the perfect assist to Roberto Firmino as the hour mark approached, but his compatriot was caught between passing and shooting as he bore down on goal – giving Hennessey chance to rush out and claim.
Palace may have felt they had weathered the storm as the final 20 minutes began and more composure from Cabaye on the volley – following a scramble in the Reds box – would have edged them ahead.
They did take the lead with 74 minutes on the clock, however. A low corner from the right wing towards the near post bounced through kindly for Benteke, who was clinical with his header past Mignolet. 1-2.
A big win for Palace, and a bigger loss for Liverpool. The Reds were expected to build on the momentum they had in their last two games away from home.
The result means that Liverpool remain third with 66 points, but Manchester City are just two points behind with two games in hand. United are also creeping closer as they are just trailing by three points, but the Manchester derby takes place on Thursday.
Next: Watford (A) – Monday 1 May 8pm
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