Liverpool

Liverpool back into title race with Palace win but 'Jekyll & Hyde' showing is cause for concern

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Liverpool are back in the title race - but it was far from pretty
Liverpool are back in the title race - but it was far from pretty / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages
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From Selhurst Park - What a difference less than 24 hours can make.

Before Manchester City and Liverpool took on Southampton and Crystal Palace respectively this weekend, the consensus was that the Premier League title race was dead and buried.

Then, football happened.

First, City were stunned by a spirited, organised and resolute Southampton side. After the game Pep Guardiola may have claimed that the display was one of the best of the season but the result certainly wasn't, the 1-1 draw opening the door for Liverpool to cut their lead at the top of the table to nine points.

Even without Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, the Reds did not waste this golden opportunity, leaving a raucous Selhurst Park with all three points on Sunday afternoon courtesy of a 3-1 victory.

Watch back the opening half an hour in isolation and this was a mightily impressive Liverpool display. In these opening exchanges they refused to let their hosts have a kick. Will Hughes looked genuinely dizzy at one point, overwrought by the hurricane of red shirts interchanging positions all over the pitch.

Curtis Jones was having real joy in the half spaces, exchanging attractively with Andy Robertson down the left, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson were enjoying similar joy down the right. Henderson even pulled out a few backheels. It was scintillating stuff.

However, after this lightning start a concerning trope of Liverpool's season reared its ugly head once again.

Just like it was at the beginning of Jurgen Klopp's reign, the Reds are struggling to control and see out games this season. They are conceding more chances and shipping more goals than they did when the won the Premier League title, and that was again the case against Palace.

The Eagles had fired a few warning shots in the first half, going within centimeters of breaching the Reds' high line twice, and also looking extremely dangerous whenever balls came into their opponents' box.

They then burst into life just before the break, going close with two efforts from Michael Olise and Jean-Philippe Mateta. Rather than use these close shaves as a wake-up call though, Palace only grew in confidence in the second half, with Liverpool bizarrely failing to take the sting out of the game by retaining possession.

It wasn't very champions-like.

Conor Gallagher should have converted a few minutes into the second period and eventually, Odsonne Edouard did, with Mateta finally timing his run right to beat Liverpool's much-analysed, aggressive defensive line.

This 'spell' of Palace dominance continued right up until Liverpool were handed a get out of jail free card in the form of an extremely controversial penalty, which was gleefully converted by Fabinho in front of the travelling fans.

So, while the headline may read: Liverpool cut Man City's lead to nine points, their display against Palace might actually have provided more evidence on why the Reds do not have the capacity to catch their North West rivals.

Klopp's charges can trim the deficit to six provided they win their game in hand but they're just too manic, too inconsistent and too wild to seriously consider themselves potential Premier League winners.

The "Jekyll and Hyde" football on display at Selhurst Park, as Klopp put it, epitomised this absolutely.


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