Klopp subs rescue Liverpool *again* in ‘points from behind’ win to shame Chelsea

Will Ford
Harvey Elliott celebrates scoring a late winner for Liverpool.
Harvey Elliott celebrates scoring a late winner for Liverpool.

Liverpool have one fewer point from losing positions as Chelsea have in total. Jurgen Klopp should put his new ‘mentality monsters’ in the starting line-up.

A Crystal Palace team without Eberechi Eze and Cheick Doucoure through injury, and the inexplicably benched Michael Olise, is one ripe for relegation. There will have been many a titter in living rooms on a wet December Saturday as TNT Sports proffered Will Hughes as the attacking midfielder in a line-up featuring a couple of decent centre-backs and nine Championship-level also-rans.

The pundits were trying to rustle up some tension ahead of kick-off with the typical ‘this is a difficult place to come’ rhetoric, and Jurgen Klopp was similarly wary over playing at Selhurst Park, where Liverpool haven’t lost for nine years, winning eight of nine games by an aggregate score of 24-7.

They arrived on Saturday on the back of the Palace fans booing their players off last time out and throwing projectiles at their manager, who responded by claiming they’ve been “spoiled” by Premier League mediocrity over the last decade. A fast Liverpool start and what was already a relatively subdued atmosphere could easily have turned sour.

But Klopp’s side were well off it; even more so than they have been in recent weeks, when late shows of mental fortitude have got them through games rather than the football they’ve played.

Alisson made a stunning save to deny Jefferson Lerma in a first half in which Liverpool failed to register a shot on target, or even any moments of potential to threaten Sam Johnstone’s goal. Palace had the air of a team that knew they would get a couple of chances to win a game they weren’t going to lose against a Liverpool side whose attack lacked any cohesion whatsoever.

Palace were denied a penalty in the first half by VAR, which drew Andrew Madley’s attention to a foul on Wataru Endo, but were awarded one on review after half-time, as Jarell Quansah swung a leg to clear a ball and caught Jean-Philippe Mateta, who converted the spot kick.

It wasn’t so much that Palace deserved to be in front, though they were tenacious in the tackle and tried to be positive when given the chance. It was that Liverpool deserved to be behind.

Palace sat deep out of possession, as is their wont against superior opposition, and Liverpool didn’t appear to have any idea what to do about it. There was no space in behind, fine, but there was no sign of Dominik Szoboszlai between the lines and seemingly no desire to get Mohamed Salah or Luis Diaz on the ball with time on the wings. Where were the big switches of play so typical of Klopp’s Liverpool?

They needed a huge momentum shift, which came in the 74th minute when Jordan Ayew was sent off for a tackle that the referee was alone in thinking was worthy of a second yellow, seconds before Mohamed Salah scored his 200th Liverpool goal courtesy of a big deflection.

Mo Salah celebrates after scoring the equaliser for Liverpool at Crystal Palace.
Mo Salah celebrates after scoring the equaliser for Liverpool at Crystal Palace.

Roy Hodgson may as well have had steam coming out of his ears, such was his anger at the referee’s decision, which he will claim handed Liverpool victory on a plate. But Klopp will quite reasonably suggest his substitutes also played a pivotal role.

Joe Gomez, Cody Gakpo and Harvey Elliott were all significant upgrades on the cumbersome teammates they replaced, and it was Elliott who showed the one moment of undeniable quality for Liverpool in a game they didn’t really turn up in and can count themselves very fortunate to have won.

But win they did, to go top of the actual table and comfortably top of the ‘points from losing positions’ table. They’ve now got 18 points having gone behind, which is one fewer than Chelsea have in total.

It’s more than enough evidence to suggest Klopp has another crop of ‘mentality monsters’ on his hands, but apparently only among his substitutes, who once again dug them out of a hole the starters seemed to accept as their graves for the day.

There’s no clear starting XI as things stand for Klopp, but that’s no bad thing for a manager who has players on the bench desperate to make an impact when they come on, and invariably do, to leave them top of the Premier League with Christmas just around the corner.