Liverpool will be top of the Premier League for the third Christmas in a row, to the delight of everyone associated with the club, after a clinical and destructive display against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon.
After the high intensity win at Anfield on Wednesday evening, this performance was a more composed and ruthless showing from Klopp’s side, that dispatched a team many expected to cause the Reds problems. With Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze in good form, it was thought that the Liverpool defensive set up would get a stern test during the afternoon. After the 90 minutes, all it showed was the defensive instability that Crystal Palace currently have.
The poor showing from the Eagles was made so by the gorgeous, assertive, fluid football that was on show from the Reds. It was a joy to watch as most fans enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. Even from the third minute of the game, it looked like Palace were going to be in trouble.
In the first period, Klopp’s side played some supreme football throughout that was mesmerising to watch. Takumi Minamino got his first goal in the Premier League, on the year to the day he signed, to give the Reds the lead. This was swiftly doubled as Sadio Mané swivelled on a pass from Firmino and dispatched it beyond the diving Vicente Guaita.
The Spaniard would be picking the ball out of his next once more before the half was over. After collecting the ball at the edge of their own area, Liverpool went from defence to attack rapidly, charging down the field at great pace before a perfect cross from Robertson found Firmino in acres of space, who calmly controlled and slotted it home.
If the first half was supreme, then the second was just perfection. Not satisfied with three goals, the Reds went on a rampage with four further goals to complete the onslaught. A beautifully curled effort from Henderson was followed by a deaf chip by Firmino to put Klopp’s side five clear. Salah, after starting on the bench, couldn’t let the game finish without him contributing, as he first nodded home from close range, before unleashing a perfectly whipped strike into the top left corner to complete the action.Embed from Getty Images
Seven goals doesn’t flatter the league leaders at all. They were head and shoulders the better team from the first kick of the ball. I could easily put every player in the winners column. It was a performance that many saw coming. After several results that saw them creep over the line but missing major chances during them, they were unleashed with Roy Hodgson’s side facing the full wrath of the defending champions.
With over a week before there next outing, it will give Klopp’s side the opportunity to rest, recover and enjoy Christmas before a big fixture at Anfield against Sam Allardyce’s West Brom. After two massive wins in a week, it is important that they take maximum points against the Midlanders in their next outing.
Klopp made three changes from the side who defeated Tottenham on Wednesday. Mohamed Salah and Curtis Jones were rested with Takumi Minamino and Naby Keïta getting rear starts, whilst Joël Matip was fit once again to take his position at the back, with Rhys Williams returning to the bench after his excellent showing against Tottenham.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
Roberto FirminoEmbed from Getty Images
The Brazilian is back! After his midweek winner against Tottenham, he continued his fine form with a stunning display on Saturday lunchtime. He could do nothing wrong as he was perfect in every way. Every pass, header, piece of mobility and shot, exuded confidence that was clearly missing earlier in the season.
With goals clearly a department he wanted to sort in his game, over the last two outings he has returned these to his game, providing two well rounded performances. This showing built brilliantly on what he did well against Tottenham and gave fans the display we have enjoyed all too often over the last few seasons.
His runs intertwining with Minamino and Mané caused early problems for the Palace back line, and saw them subsequently lose Minamino for the first goal. For the second goal, Firmino received the ball surrounded by blue and red shirts, but was composed enough to slot the ball through to Mané who dispatched in fierce fashion. With two major contributions early, all he needed was goal and he didn’t have long to wait to get his brace.
After regaining possession, the Brazilian sprayed the ball out to Robertson on the left before charging towards the Eagles goal. Finding himself in acres of room, Robertson provided a pin point cross back to him where he comfortably controlled and stroked the ball home. His evening would get better after the interval.
After another swift Liverpool counter attack, the 29-year-old drifted out to the left side, where he was found perfectly by substitute Salah, before he lofted the ball deliciously over the onrushing keeper, which had Jones and Klopp purring on the sidelines. The former Hoffenheim man was on fire, his infectious smile back for all to see. Unfortunately, he would be denied an opportunity to get his hat-trick as Klopp intelligently opted to rest his number nine for the games ahead.
It was another successful showing for Firmino, who looks like he is returning to his best at the perfect time. Since signing for the club, he has been a revelation that has excelled and become so important to this team. He went through a rough patch that every player will go through at some point in their career. However, like the best players in the world, he has comeback firing on all cylinders.
Naby KeïtaEmbed from Getty Images
After another frustrating period of injuries in his Liverpool career, the Guinea international returned to the starting line-up to control the game like only he knows how to. His effort could not be questioned, as throughout you could see him make interception after interception to joy of Jordan Henderson who lavished praise over him all game.
His passing was also back to its best with his simple approach paying off throughout, with the Crystal Palace players not getting close to him. When breaking forward his judgement was measured, always choosing the right through ball that would provide the best development for his side, whilst he would be the first on the scene to stop any counter if an attack broke down.
You could see his confidence returning in the second period as his tricks were coming off leaving Palace players in his rear-view mirror, whilst potentially landing himself a spot-on Soccer AM’s skill segment next weekend. This is the Naby Keïta we want to see.
He has throughout his time at Anfield put in a good string of performances but then picked up an injury which has put him out the side once again. Clearly Klopp knows the quality that 25-year-old holds and needs to see it consistently without any disruption. If he can stay fit, and it is a big if, then we could see the best of the midfielder in the coming months.
Takumi MinaminoEmbed from Getty Images
Another who has had a tough time at Anfield since joining, a year to the day of his signing, he scores his first Premier League goal. His strike kickstarted the team and gave them the perfect platform to go onto producing the rout that ended up materialising.
His goal was taken brilliantly, calm and composed in front of goal. After taking a touch to take the Clyne challenge out of the game, he fearsomely fired home with a low strike. His relief was clear from his celebration and from there his confidence grew.
His relationship with his colleagues looked so much better after his last display. This was evident with his passing and reading of the game. Everything looked steady in his game and didn’t look troubled by the physicality of the Palace players. Instead, he looked to take on the challenge, going head-to-head with many for the ball.
He has hardly featured since moving to Merseyside, struggling to break into the side and adjust to the Liverpool way of playing. However, after a year at the club, it looks like Klopp has finally got the Japanese international fully integrated into the style. This will be so valuable moving forwards with rotation a must during this part of the campaign.
LosersEmbed from Getty Images
There’s no way anyone can be regarded as a loser after that display. Ruthless all over the pitch, taking down a team that many have succumbed to in the past.
It was excellent to see all of Klopp’s red arrows performing at their efficient, ruthless best. Hopefully this can continue over the festive period so they can build a substantial lead at the top of the tree.
With eight days between this match and their next, against West Brom on December 27, the Reds will, for once, have plenty of time to prepare for their next Premier League bout.
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