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Crystal Palace 3, Liverpool 3: Blown Lead Blows Title Chances

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A match that looked like a win ended in a draw that felt like a loss as Liverpool fell apart in the final act to share a point apiece with Crystal Palace.

Remember when WEE JOE ALLEN scored a HEADER and dreams felt like they could come true? Bask in that moment. Bask in it forever.
Remember when WEE JOE ALLEN scored a HEADER and dreams felt like they could come true? Bask in that moment. Bask in it forever.
Jamie McDonald

After scoring three goals and looking hungry for a fourth, fifth, six, and even seventh, Liverpool imploded in the last eleven minutes of the match and were lucky to scrape a draw against Crystal Palace rather than a dominating win as had been the hope.

liverpool blog fc sbn

Crystal Palace 3 Delaney 79', Gayle 81', 88'
Liverpool 3 Allen 18', Sturridge 53', Suarez 55'

The match started brightly enough, with Liverpool maintaining a quick pace and steady pressure on a very numerous Crystal Palace defense — 6-3-1 is totally a thing, right? — but Liverpool's few scoring chances went awry, most notably a Mamadou Sakho header from a Steven Gerrard corner that missed the target.

Sometimes you need an odd, rare, special kind of goal to get things started and Liverpool's first came in the 18th minute on a headed goal — a headed goal! — from all 5'6" of dear sweet wee Joe Allen. It wasn't who you'd expect to score, and in a game where Liverpool were looking to close the massive goal difference gap between themselves and Manchester City, a goal from an unlikely source felt like as good a launch pad as any towards a positive result.

Sturridge and Suarez both had their turns to contribute in the second half within minutes of each other, and while Liverpool could have had a handful of goals in other scenarios, including a few decent penalty shouts, they stalled at three. They certainly looked hungry enough for additional goals, especially after Suarez put the team up 3-0, but Palace put the brakes on Liverpool's joy ride with just over ten minutes left to play.

And oh, what a disastrous ten minutes it was. The tragicomic truth about Liverpool's season is that they've defended mostly by outscoring their opponents, and that the team's style of play necessitates the shipping of goals at a rate that would impress even FedEx. Palace's sudden offensive proclivity was shocking in the context of a club that scored 28 goals all season prior to this match, and not shocking in that if they were going to do it against anyone, Liverpool would have been a very good candidate.

A pair of late substitutions saw Philippe Coutinho and Victor Moses come on far too late to help a side that was clearly gassed at that point, and additional chances to score a late fourth goal were squandered. It's rare when a draw feels not just like a loss but a season's worth of losses, but the players were left feeling clearly gutted after a match that fell apart so, so late.

liverpool blog fc sbn

A small fact lost in the aftermath of this match is that this draw put Liverpool top of the table. It may be by a measly one point, and it may only be until the end of the day on Wednesday if City get a result against Aston Villa, but it's still first place. Never has first place felt this devastating.

Liverpool needed not just all three points from the match today but three points plus a massive goal tally and a (relatively) clean sheet. It was a tall order from beginning, given how rarely Palace under Pulis have allowed visiting teams to score more than once at Selhurst Park, combined with just how large a goal difference Liverpool needed to make up. Three points in and of itself were important, but were never going to be enough in and of themselves.

Are Liverpool technically, statistically, mathematically less likely to win the title at this point? Sure. Does that actually matter given that the title race was always going to go down to the last match of the season anyway? Probably not. But everything that was true at the start of today's match is still true at the end of it. It doesn't change the amount of stress you have, and it doesn't change the many ways City, Aston Villa, or West Ham United might still find a way to throw a few thrills Liverpool's way in the next week.

It's okay to feel gutted by the result, or more accurately what that result means for Liverpool's ultimate title hopes. But this season has been topsy turvy and completely bizarre for everyone involved in the title race; it's not necessarily unreasonable to think that more surprises might still be in store for how this season finally shakes down next Sunday.

Stay tuned. We go again, and hope that our new best friends at Aston Villa and our long con frenemies at West Ham can do the same.