Scott Dann ended Jurgen Klopp’s unbeaten start as Liverpool manager with a late header which gave a vibrant Crystal Palace their third successive Premier League victory over the Reds.
In a game of end-to-end attacking and bumps, scrapes and bruises, the visitors struck at an 82nd-minute corner to settle an entertaining affair 2-1 in their favour.
Slack defending allowed Yannick Bolasie to score with Palace’s first shot on target in the 21st minute and despite Philippe Coutinho’s third goal in two games just before the break Dann exploited more set-piece weakness to grab the winner.
Not only did it inflict Klopp’s first loss, after three wins and three draws, but it also ended Liverpool’s longest unbeaten run – 12 matches – since September 2013.
Palace, who started at lightning speed and came alive again late on after a period on the back foot, were rewarded for not settling for a draw and going for the win when other sides would have closed down the game a lot earlier happy to leave Anfield with a point.
They were no doubt encouraged by the fact they were viewed as Liverpool’s bogey side, at the back of their mind that 3-3 draw from 3-0 late in the season Brendan Rodgers almost won the title – something the watching Steven Gerrard, back from Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer’s off-season, needed no reminding of.
The hosts were captained for only the second time by Lucas Leiva as James Milner missed his first league match for the club he joined in the summer after sustaining a hamstring injury in the midweek Europa League win over Rubin Kazan in Russia.
That meant Klopp had to restructure his midfield but it was the defence which was found wanting again for the opening goal as Alberto Moreno’s initial weak tackle allowed Wilfried Zaha to get the ball on the right and his cross was virtually teed up for Bolasie by Emre Can.
Spurred into life, Christian Benteke’s header was clawed away by Wayne Hennessey before the striker completely mis-hit a shot from Lallana’s pull-back.
Liverpool lost Mamadou Sakho to what looked like a serious knee injury, although the France international attempted to play on after treatment and immediately almost gifted Yohan Cabaye a goal before he was replaced by Dejan Lovren.
The hosts’ right flank had looked their best avenue of attack and that is where the equaliser came from, with Adam Lallana’s backheel of Nathaniel Clyne’s cross crucial in doing just enough to divert the ball way from Palace’s defenders and into the path of Coutinho who bent in a shot at the far post.
A late first-half flurry saw Lovren’s header cleared off the line by James McArthur with Lucas volleying over the rebound. Benteke blazed over early in the second half, and headed over an even better opportunity from Alberto Moreno’s cross on the hour – just after Bakary Sako had shot into the side-netting at the other end.
The last half-hour felt like a cup tie with both sides going for the win as Klopp sent on the attack-minded Roberto Firmino for the more defensively secure Can and switched to a 4-1-4-1 formation, while Pardew swapped like-for-like with Connor Wickham replacing Sako.
Jason Puncheon tested Simon Mignolet from distance, but while the Belgium international had sure hands for that one when Dann headed Cabaye’s corner goalwards he could only parry and the defender nodded in the rebound.
At the end Palace fans were chanting “You must be sick of us” and “Can we play you every week?”.