Liverpool collapse leaves title dream in tatters

Today I will be writing more of the liverpool’s self destruction, because personal I felt bad after the final whistle

After another disastrous slip from his team, Brendan Rodgers could only sit there with a disbelieving smile of regret.

“We go top tonight as well, with 81 points with a week to go in the season,” the Liverpool manager said after this tectonic 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace, shaking his head as he paused. “And we sit here devastated.”

That is the incredible truth after this incredible match. It also reflects the remarkable scale of the team’s collapse, both in this game and in the title race.

The Arsenal side of 1998-99 is the only other team since the Premier League was founded to go into the final week on top yet not win the title, but that scenario came fraught will all manner of fixture caveats and complications. Here, just when it looked like Liverpool were going to make it as difficult as possible for Manchester City, they so clearly created complications for themselves. Afterwards Rodgers conceded the title.

“Yes, for me it is [over],” he said. “Yes. We needed to win tonight to keep the pressure on.”

Instead, after all the justifiable talk of the psychological work with Dr. Steve Peters, Liverpool themselves buckled under pressure. Rodgers also conceded that afterward. They were consumed by the cauldron of Selhurst Park, their title challenge swirling down it. After Damien Delaney hit his deflected 78th-minute strike — his first of the season, typical, and Palace’s first of the night — a ripple went around the tight old stadium. The roar started. “Then everything took off,” as Palace boss Tony Pulis put it. “It was amazing, the support. When the second goal went in, it was just a matter of time until we got the third. That’s as good as I’ve heard for a long, long time.”

Liverpool won’t forget this for a long, long time.

They froze. Palace seized the moment, most notably the irrepressible Yannick Bolasie. His breathtaking run past Glen Johnson before the second goal was the real moment when it all started. His utterly ambitious stride opened up an entire tract of the pitch, and the game. In there lay all of Palace’s remarkable abandon and Liverpool’s apprehension.

Rodgers’ side was by then playing with utter fear, paralysed in the face of almost every frantic Palace attack. Dwight Gayle showed contrasting coolness, offering such a cacophony of a climax.

“It’s thinking clearly under pressure which is important,” Rodgers lamented. “Our decision-making in that period of pressure has to be better. That’s not just tonight. It’s something I’ve seen at times this season. We ended up getting a point when we should have got three.”

That will be just as galling as the deep disappointment of this draw. Liverpool had actually done the hard part, both in the title race and the game. They had broken down a side notoriously durable in Palace, and got the early goal that set them up with a genuinely ingenious set piece through Joe Allen.

After that, Daniel Sturridge displayed his divine touch for the second, before Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez interchanged so gloriously for the third. It all reflected the absolute brilliant best of their football this season. Yet, just when they seemed at a peak — returning to the top of the table with a win that put all the pressure on City — they hit rock bottom. They completely caved in.

Worse, it would be difficult to say this wasn’t coming. It would also be difficult to say there wasn’t a strong degree of arrogance, even hubris, at the root of it. Consider the amount of games over the past 13 fixtures in which Liverpool have been on the brink; in which they’ve conceded so many to really put them in trouble; in which they have displayed nerves. There was the 3-2 win at Fulham that started the run, Swansea City, Cardiff City, Sunderland, West Ham United, Norwich City and even Manchester City’s initial comeback at Anfield.

But on each of those previous occasions, their attack did just about enough.

It was understandable, then, that they banked on it again. Here, however, their greatest strength became their greatest weakness. It left them so badly exposed. And, just as an admirable arrogance powered their play through this season, it arguably crossed over into something self-defeating there. Rather than just see out the game, they tried to make up the goal difference. There was a clear hubris there. Liverpool went for everything, but it may well have cost them everything.

Some of Rodgers’ comments on this afterward were curious, particularly given that he otherwise so creditably fronted up to the media after such an evidently devastating disappointment.

“It’s game management,” Rodgers said. “That was the key. Players, no matter how fit they are, are going to look a bit tired at the end. Palace were dead in the end, but they got the goal and then a second. It was the management of the game that cost us.”

Rodgers was talking in general, and about a more abstract concept, but it is a criticism that should be directed at himself, too. His final 10-word sentence, when taken in isolation, is actually apt. On this occasion, after such a supreme season for him personally, Rodgers’ management did cost them.

Some decisions were odd, not least those to bring on Victor Moses and Philippe Coutinho rather than Daniel Agger. Whatever about game management, Liverpool looked like they didn’t know how to defend. There is also a fair question about whether Rodgers actually knows how to set up a team defensively, even if that appears reactionary right now. It is deeply ironic after his post-Chelsea comments, when he said Jose Mourinho’s kind of negative play is “not difficult to coach.” It looked beyond Liverpool here.

At the very least, Rodgers now does precisely know what areas of his team he needs to improve for the future. He admitted that afterward. That can eventually be perceived as a positive, even if it does not feel like it now. This could be the true making of this team. It has happened to other great sides of the past. As Paul Breitner once put it about Bayern Munich’s 4-0 defeat to Ajax in 1973, “it was one of the most important defeats you can have. Sometimes a defeat is very important for your future.”

On the other side, there are long-term negatives to this, too, beyond the painful memories. There is the very issue of perception. Because, over the past few weeks, there has been an unmistakable mystique about Liverpool — a wonder at just how they were doing it, and awe at the way they were doing it. Teams feared them.

Now, that fear may give way to something else, especially since the scale of the collapse was — without being too blunt — such a joke.

Teams will know how to set up against them, frustrate early on, then counter.

Rodgers, instead, must stand them up again. Steven Gerrard’s words after the Manchester City win are more relevant now than ever. Liverpool must go again. They must look to the massive brilliant strides they’ve made. They must not allow the immense scale of this collapse to overshadow the many more glorious moments of this season, even if that feels impossible now. They must try and use this as motivation, as a positive.

After the game, Pulis tried to offer another positive.

“Don’t write Liverpool off yet,” the Palace manage said. “It’s been that kind of season.”

That is true, and there may be another twist. This just felt like a defining one.

Liverpool squandered a three-goal lead in the final 11 minutes at Crystal Palace to see their Premier League title hopes suffer a severe blow – and leave Luis Suarez in tears at the final whistle. Brend

Brendan Rodgers’s side looked to be maintaining the pressure on title favourites Manchester City, and reducing a gap in goal difference that remains at nine.
Joe Allen’s first goal for the Reds and strikes from Daniel Sturridge and Suarez put the Reds in complete command as the visiting fans urged their side forward in search of more goals, with City in their sights.
Instead, their fragile defence collapsed completely at the first sign of serious pressure as Palace sent Selhurst Park wild with goals from Damien Delaney and a double from substitute Dwight Gayle.
Liverpool’s point put them back on top of the table, but the sight of players on their haunches and an emotional Suarez – his face covered by his shirt as he was ushered towards the tunnel by captain Steven Gerrard and substitute Kolo Toure – told the tale.
Manchester City are now in pole position to win the title, with home games against Aston Villa and West Ham United to come.
Rodgers will be at a loss to explain how his team crumbled so badly to squander the chance to move closer to their first title in 24 years.
Palace have proved their quality against illustrious opposition before this season, but here they made a tame start and allowed the visitors to take the early initiative.
Liverpool had a clear penalty appeal rejected early on when Yannick Bolasie missed his kick completely in the area and only connected with Glen Johnson.
Referee Mark Clattenburg only awarded a corner, and Liverpool were frustrated once more when Mamadou Sakho headed Gerrard’s kick off target when completely unmarked.
Johnson was causing problems down Palace’s left flank, and he should have put Liverpool ahead when he found himself clear on the end of Allen’s raking long pass, but his header beat home keeper Julian Speroni and the bar.
Liverpool’s threat was growing and it was no surprise when they finally went ahead after 18 minutes. Allen pulled away from marker Joe Ledley to meet Gerrard’s corner with space and time to head past Speroni.
Palace finally showed more ambition as half-time approached, and Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet was called into action to save from Jason Puncheon and Mile Jedinak.
Any hope of a recovery seemed to be swept away by Liverpool’s dazzling start to the second half that, at that stage, looked to have put the game out of Palace’s reach and ate into City’s superior goal difference.
Sturridge saw his curling shot superbly turned on to the post by Speroni, only for Suarez to blaze the rebound wildly off target with the keeper still trying to recover his position.
Speroni had no such luck moments later when Sturridge’s low shot from the edge of the area took a crucial deflection and trickled out of his reach.
Liverpool, sensing there were more goals to be had, surged forward and Suarez made it three with his 31st Premier League goal of the season when he beat Speroni easily after a neat exchange with Raheem Sterling.
Palace had shown little but were revived 11 minutes from time when Delaney’s 25-yard shot was deflected high beyond Mignolet.
Liverpool suddenly seemed gripped by panic and Palace exposed them ruthlessly two minutes later as Bolasie squared for Gayle to score with a precise finish.
And then, with two minutes left, the visitors’ misery was complete as substitute Glenn Murray chested a long ball into Gayle’s path for another comprehensive finish.
As Palace players celebrated, Liverpool’s reacted in a manner which suggested they believe their title challenge is finally over.