Rewind the Liverpool Football Club videocassette to March 2016, and your highlights will likely include a late, late, penalty won and converted by Christian Benteke against Crystal Palace to give Jürgen Klopp’s men a big victory at Selhurst Park. Whether or not the penalty should have been awarded to Liverpool by referee Andre Marriner on the day was, shall we say, a contentious affair. Still, tough calls get made by referees every week in the Premier League, so it was perhaps slightly surprising to see Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew bring up Marriner’s selection for yesterday’s fixture as an issue.
“There were still a few decisions that went against us today. I don’t think Andre Marriner should have reffed this game. He gives the penalty last year so we’ve got a negative in our mind anyway. Why was Mike Riley giving him the game today? I can’t understand it.
And then we get three penalty calls… OK, they're tight but they’re probably no worse than Christian's last year so it's just a little bit frustrating, but having said that Liverpool were a bloody good team.”
Pardew later dialed back his frustration over the refereeing somewhat, suggesting that while he accepted the decisionmaking over the penalty shouts that went unheeded, he still felt the appointment of Marriner created undue pressure given the home crowd’s memories of March. And indeed, there did indeed appear to be intermittent boos and catcalls directed at Marriner during the match, which the Crystal Palace manager also noted.
Pardew was also quick to give credit to Liverpool’s central defenders, who enjoyed a bit of a roller-coaster evening with some egregious errors as well as thumping goals on their account. “One of them had a mistake early on, but I thought they were terrific today,” said Pardew, adding that “they took the challenge to Christian, and he had his hands full dealing with those two.” The Palace manager also noted that Liverpool, who don’t have the best history of snuffing out aerial threats, did that and more on this day, scoring twice from well-placed corners - which they so rarely do.
Looking back on the match as a whole, Pardew disagreed with the view that Palace had played poorly, pointing to an improved, and much more aggressive, second half display from his side. He did, however, acknowledge that the hosts struggled to keep pace with a rampant Liverpool frontline at the beginning of the match, and were perhaps somewhat fortunate to equalize twice during the opening phase.
We didn't have enough pressure at the top of the pitch and their two centre-halves had too much time, and then we were defending in the last third where they're as good as anyone.
Sometimes its difficult on the sideline or in the press box to feel what the players are sensing out there, and some of their play was so quick and fast it got us in a negative mindset. We addressed that at half-time and we were a lot higher up the pitch, did a lot better and put the goalie under pressure as we had a lot of opportunities at 3-2.
A reasonably fair assessment. Despite showing flashes of promise so far, Palace are still in 12th place, with some work to be done with their rearguard, as Pardew also noted. Burnley, Manchester City, and Swansea City await in November, before an interesting December during which Palace will host Manchester United and Chelsea.