Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Royal Screw-Up At Palace

Contrary to what the article heading may suggest, this is not a piece for OK! magazine about Prince Harry’s latest escapades. In fact, it is in reference to the frankly shocking capitulation that we witnessed yesterday evening at Selhurst Park. I’m over-using humour in this first paragraph because to seriously stop and think about it is frankly too much- we lost nearly all hope of the title yesterday.

We didn’t throw away our already rather slim chances in the way that many predicted- failure to break down a packed, resolute Palace defence. The breaching of what the Palace fans dubbed ‘Fortress Selhurst’ was actually rather easy; Liverpool fired 3 past them, and should have had a lot more. 3 goals to the good with 12 minutes to play- it looked a certainty that Liverpool had overcome their last remaining big hurdle, and kept the pressure right up on Manchester City. Our defence has been unreliable all season, but surely even this motley crew wouldn’t concede 3 in the space of 9 minutes to a side who has struggled to score many all season? Alas, that’s exactly what we did.

Was it the pressure getting to us? Was it the fact that Palace had nothing to lose whatsoever, and so put their all into that last 10 minutes? Was it simply that our defence is not good enough? It was most likely a combination of the three, with the emphasis on the 3rd. The first goal, the one that let Palace back into the game, was a freak deflection. Damien Delaney’s well-hit but ultimately speculative effort struck Glen Johnson and flew right into the top corner. Any usual title contenders would at this point have stopped pushing to increase the goal difference, and shut up shop. But we are no ‘usual’ contenders. We neither have the ability nor the inclination to go defensive, and here that cost us oh so dear.

Of all people to shatter Liverpool’s remaining title dreams, it was Dwight Gayle. He was talked about a lot at the start of the season- the club’s record signing who had just months before been in the Conference! I even considered him for my Fantasy Football team (though seeing as I currently lie in 150,573rd place that’s no high accolade). However, he has barely featured all season, and only came on for Crystal Palace as a late substitute. It was he who scored the two goals that sent us from cruising to crying in a frighteningly short space of time.

Speaking of unlikely players, there is no doubt that the ball fell to the wrong person in the 94th minute. Rodgers had taken off Sturridge for Moses at 3-2, and it was the Nigerian who had the chance to re-ignite Liverpool’s title dreams deep into stoppage time. After a scramble, the goal lay almost empty- did Moses manage to even make proper contact with the ball? What do you think…
It was an almost comical moment, at least it would have been had the ramifications not been so severe.

But just how severe are said ramifications? Are we now out of the title race which we did so staggeringly well to even get to in the first place? There is no doubting that Manchester City are now unbelievably strong favourites; they would have to either draw to both Villa and West Ham or lose to 1 of them to open the door again for Liverpool. This, however, is not impossible- Liverpool have to make sure they are ready to capitalise on any shock slip-up. If City did lose to West Ham or Villa, and we failed to win our game against Newcastle on the last day, it would be too much to bear. Liverpool just need to keep focused on their game, and maybe footballing fate will smile upon them by turning up just one last shock in this staggering season of Premier League football.
-James Martin

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