Liverpool suffer huge blow to title hopes after Eberechi Eze secures Palace win

Jürgen Klopp’s hopes for a rebound from Atalanta defeat fail to materialise at Anfield

Premier League: Liverpool 0 Crystal Palace 1

The immediate reaction to the final whistle painted the picture of a truly damaging week for Liverpool. Jürgen Klopp hugged a victorious Crystal Palace manager, Oliver Glasner, before puffing out his cheeks and shaking his head. Andy Robertson sank to his haunches and stared into the middle distance disconsolately. Liverpool fans filed out without a sound. Their team has faltered badly in the title race.

Soundly beaten in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-finals by Atalanta on Thursday, Liverpool succumbed again on home soil as Eberechi Eze’s early goal gave Palace a deserved victory and huge lift in their bid to pull clear of relegation trouble. They may just have holed Liverpool’s Premier League title prospects in the process. Klopp’s team have lost two successive home games for the first time since the Covid season of 2020-21 and only have themselves to blame after another lacklustre display. An improved second-half display came too late.

Anfield paid a moving tribute before kick-off to the 97 Liverpool supporters who were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough. After a stirring rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the disaster there was a minute’s silence in memory of the victims and a ‘97′ mosaic appeared on the Kop.

Klopp had promised a reaction to the shock Europa League defeat by Atalanta. Instead, Liverpool served up more of the same throughout a poor first-half display. They were again lethargic, sloppy in possession and lacking concentration in defence. The malaise even afflicted Alisson, and he was making his first start since injuring a hamstring against Arsenal in February. Palace prospered from the lapses and were full value for an interval lead that could and should have been greater.


The visitors, their performance elevated by the supremely gifted duo of Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, cut through Liverpool at will and had particular joy down their left against Conor Bradley and Ibrahima Konaté. Klopp’s team failed to heed the warning signs and were carved open by a flowing Palace passing move involving Adam Wharton, Olise and Tyrick Mitchell.

The defender pulled the ball back from the byline, through the legs of Wataru Endo, for Eze to slot a precise finish beyond Liverpool’s recalled first-choice goalkeeper. Konaté and Virgil van Dijk were both slow to react to the danger, leaving Eze completely unmarked in front of goal. It was the fourth time in the last five Premier League home games that Liverpool had conceded first. They have won a remarkable 27 points from losing positions this season, and were in familiar unwanted territory again.

Palace should have had a second before Liverpool cleared their heads. A slip by Van Dijk allowed Jean-Philippe Mateta to collect Eze’s pass and race clean through on goal. The striker lofted his shot over the advancing Alisson but it lacked power and Andy Robertson was able to hook clear brilliantly on the line.

Robertson was the one Liverpool player to hit the level required in the first half. Endo scooped a corner from the left back against the Palace crossbar when it fell at his feet inside a crowded six-yard box. The Scotland captain also delivered a superb cross to the back post for Luis Díaz, whose acrobatic volley was tipped over by Dean Henderson.

The Palace goalkeeper almost presented Liverpool with an equaliser when hesitating over a routine through ball. His indecision allowed Darwin Núñez to collect but, with Mohamed Salah free inside the area, the striker overhit the cross to an offside Díaz. A moment that encapsulated Liverpool’s first-half performance arrived in the 45th minute. Díaz did brilliantly to spin away from two Palace players and find Alexis Mac Allister via a nutmeg on Mateta. The World Cup-winning midfielder turned, spotted Bradley advancing down the right and miscued the pass straight out of play.

For the second time in four days a ponderous Liverpool display prompted Klopp to change his side during the interval. Dominik Szoboszlai replaced the tired Endo and helped inject the energy and accuracy that had been sorely lacking previously. Liverpool improved immeasurably as a result, but bad luck and bad finishing only increased Anfield’s torment.

Nunez had a great opportunity to equalise when Van Dijk’s header at a Robertson corner landed in front of him seven yards out. The Uruguay international connected powerfully but, from point-blank range, his shot struck Henderson and somehow deflected over. Alisson produced a similar save from Mateta when the outstanding Joachim Andersen headed an Eze free-kick back across goal. The striker, barely two yards out, turned his effort against the Brazilian and over with the goal gaping.

Liverpool were also guilty of scarcely believable misses, and several of them. Cody Gakpo also enhanced the home side’s threat following his second-half introduction. Within seconds of his arrival the Dutch international fired a low cross into the path of Curtis Jones but the midfielder let the ball slip away from him in front of goal.

Diogo Jota, another substitute, looked certain to score when Szoboszlai drew Henderson before squaring for the unusually clinical forward. Jota thought so too, only for his first-time shot to strike former Liverpool defender Nathaniel Clyne and rebound wide. Jones was culpable of the most glaring miss when played through on goal by Gakpo. The midfielder took the ball in his stride, looked up to see Henderson advancing, and poked a poor shot badly wide.

In the first of seven minutes of stoppage-time Gakpo’s cross cleared the head of Anderson – it was perhaps the first time the Palace captain had failed to intercept – and landed at the feet of Salah three yards out. A dramatic late equaliser beckoned only for Salah’s shot to hit Mitchell, who again impressed, and sail wide. Liverpool rarely threatened again. – Guardian