Brendan Rodgers: title race is over after stunning Palace fightback
'Roy of the Rovers football' cost Liverpool their lead – and title hopes – as Palace scored three goals in nine minutes
Crystal Palace 3 Liverpool 3. Liverpool’s title dreams lie in tatters after Crystal Palace staged one of the most remarkable fightbacks in Premier League history. The Eagles were down and out with 15 minutes remaining on Monday evening as Liverpool looked on course for a comfortable victory that would have moved them three points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table.
Joe Allen’s header on 18 minutes had put the Reds ahead and two goals in swift succession from Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez early in the second half eased Liverpool into what their travelling fans assumed was an assailable lead. “We’re going to win the league,” they all chanted, and who could blame them as they ran Palace ragged.
But the wheels came off the Mersey machine in spectacular style in the last quarter as Palace scored three times in the space of ten minutes. Having shown little in the way of attacking intent in the previous 79 minutes, the south London side pulled a goal back 11 minutes from time when Damien Delaney's 25-yard effort took a deflection off Glen Johnson and into the top corner of the Liverpool net. Suddenly Liverpool looked and uneasy, and their hosts scented blood.
Two minutes later Yannick Bolasie surged 60 metres down the left flank before picking out substitute Dwight Gayle with a precise pass that was turned past Simon Mignolet in the visitors' goal. 3-2 and the Liverpool faithful feared for their boys. Liverpool manager
Brendan Rodgers had questioned whether Manchester City would be able to hold their nerve in the home straight of the title race, but now it was Liverpool’s mettle being tested.
The test was failed on 88 minutes when Glenn Murray created the space for Gayle to level the scores and leave the Liverpool players shattered. At the final whistle Martin Skrtel slumped on the ground, Luis Suarez shed tears of despair and captain Steven Gerrard stood dazed and bewildered.
It was left to Rodgers to try and explain what had happened to his side. “We got carried away," he admitted. "We thought we could score more and we lost our defensive structure."
Roared on by their fans, Liverpool had begun to believe they could chase down Manchester City’s superior goal difference of nine and so put the title race back in their hands. “Attack, Attack, Attack!” the travelling fans had roared and so the Reds did, to the detriment of their defence.
"At half-time, we said that the most important thing was to win the game,” explained Rodgers. “It was not about Roy of the Rovers football to make up the goal difference, it was just about winning [but] we just did not manage the game at 3-0. We gave them a little sniff and they have some good players who can punish you."
The result leaves Liverpool just a point above City at the top of the table but the Sky Blues have two home games to play to the Reds’ one. Six points on offer against Aston Villa on Wednesday night and West Ham on Sunday.
They could of course slip up the way Liverpool have in the closing stages of a gripping season, but Rodgers isn’t holding out much hope. "There is no doubt Manchester City will go on and win it," said Rodgers. "We needed to win to keep the pressure on going into the last game and we did not do that."