Liverpool Hit Back to End Palace Hopes

Published: 15th February 2015 09:11 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2015 09:11 PM   |  A+A-


This will have felt like exorcising a few demons for Liverpool, demons from a quarter of a century ago and far more recently.

The Palace fans unfurled a huge banner showing Alan Pardew celebrating his winning goal from that epic FA Cup semi-final in 1990. But the former midfielder's then artificially-enhanced blond locks proved to be the only highlights.

Unlike 25 years ago, this time Liverpool prevailed. And they prevailed as they had failed to do in losing here in the Premier League earlier in this campaign and, even more dramatically, surrendering a three-goal advantage and with it their title hopes only last season.

Liverpool now go into the last eight of the FA Cup with further compelling evidence that they have turned their season around just as they turned this tie around having trailed at half-time.

Just two minutes in and Daniel Sturridge could have opened the scoring as Lazar Markovic drilled in a cross from the right. Sturridge met it, unmarked, but miscued.

The strength of both line-ups showed that this was a tie that mattered. Priorities may lie elsewhere for both clubs - one to stave off relegation, the other to finish in the top four - but these were powerful permutations.

Palace's selection blew away whatever feeling remaining that Pardew did not take the cup seriously at his previous club. That was an edict from Newcastle United not the manager.

The edict from the manager was to win this tie, and Dwight Gayle then broke down the left to cross low towards Fraizer Campbell. Martin Skrtel intervened, just, although the ball bounced up and off his arm. There was an attacking intent from both parties. It swung to and fro.

Then Liverpool were undone; easily undone. Joe Ledley flighted the ball towards Gayle but Skrtel should have cut it out. Instead it skimmed off his head and into Gayle's path The striker headed goalwards for Simon Mignolet to beat the ball out, but not far enough. It fell straight to Campbell who gleefully side-footed into the net. Was Mignolet's punch weak? Possibly. He did not remotely clear the penalty area. Neither did Emre Can cover Gayle's run. It was a collective failing with Skrtel the main culprit.

Liverpool drove forward with Jordan Henderson forcing his way into the area to meet Joe Allen's pass and cutting it back to Adam Lallana whose low shot was superbly pushed away by Julian Speroni. Soon after and the ball rebounded off Sturridge to Philippe Coutinho who sent it powerfully goalwards only for Scott Dann to dive and block. Speroni held the follow-up.

Palace were not cowed. They remained on the front foot also, as Pardew demands, and broke quickly, particularly through Yannick Bolasie. They were targeting the space in behind Can, and Henderson was cautioned for a trip on Gayle as he sprinted down that flank.

Henderson, the Liverpool captain in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard, was then more positive in drawing an alert save from Speroni with another drive from distance before Sturridge shook his head in disbelief at not being awarded a penalty as he was challenged by debutant Pape Souare, who appeared to hook his foot, and stumbled in the area. Then Markovic fizzed a shot narrowly wide with Speroni sprawling before he ran across the face of the area only to drive the ball over. By now Palace had been forced deep. Pardew urged them to push up but Liverpool's possession was so dominant as they desperately sought the equalising goal.

Remarkably, though, Palace almost then doubled their advantage as the ball broke to Gayle, again off Skrtel, and he was suddenly through on goal only for Mignolet to save with his outstretched boot.

Brendan Rodgers was not happy. The Liverpool manager returned to the touchline early after half-time and he introduced Mario Balotelli. But the first opportunity fell to another substitute, Palace's Jason Puncheon, with space opening up for him on the edge of the area. He ballooned over.

It proved costly. Again Liverpool worked the ball forward but this time Palace were undone by a delicate chip by Henderson that picked out the run of Sturridge as he placed himself between two defenders. The striker wonderfully guided his left-foot volley to beat Speroni and Liverpool were level.

The second soon followed. A free-kick was won, after a quick exchange of passes between Balotelli and Henderson with Dann tripping the Italian. Balotelli thumped it in, through the wall, and, such was its force, that Speroni could only parry. The rebound fell to the onrushing Lallana who beat the goalkeeper.

For Palace, it was unraveling. There was suddenly a lack of belief, of tempo, with Liverpool attempting to close the game down; attempting to strangle any effort Palace wanted to launch of gaining any damaging momentum. Finally, they did create a chance with Joel Ward crossing for Campbell who could not quite angle himself to head goalwards. Liverpool had the win.

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