Crystal Palace 1 Ledley 49'
Liverpool 2 Firmino 73', Benteke 90+5'
Not for the first time this season, Liverpool threatened to become supporting players in a tale told by Tony Evans, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing. Against the odds, however, they turned foul to fair, and in doing so, completed a miserable afternoon for Crystal Palace and Alan Pardew.
Much of the pre-match commentary focused on the fact that Liverpool have lost all three league matchups against Palace since that 3-3 draw in May 2014, and rightfully so, as Liverpool have frequently looked off the pace in this fixture. Still, the ingredients were all here for a change in fortune (or rather, all the omens were there for another deflating setback, if you're someone who has watched Liverpool's recent capers).
There was, prior to this, an impressive win in which Liverpool exacted vengeance upon Manchester City following the League Cup final. For Palace, there was a truly dismal league spell that has left the home side winless in 2016, coupled with defensive wobbles that have seen them concede seven goals over the prior three matches. Clearly, there was not an inconsiderable amount at stake for a ninth-versus-fifteenth contest at this stage in the season.
The visitors kicked off proceedings, with Divock Origi selected over Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke to spearhead the attack, while Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino assumed supporting roles. In the early going, Adebayor, Zaha and particularly Bolasie looked to be the most troublesome of customers for the Liverpool defence, breaking forward with pace whenever a loose ball fell their way (something which happened a fair bit in this match). As expected, Liverpool collapsed quickly in numbers around threats as they materialized, smothering Palace's attackers with quantity if not quality, and doing just enough to neutralize any danger.
An early foray by Adebayor and Bolasie looked to have gotten past the Liverpool defence, but Mignolet showed no hesitation and was out early to snuff out the eventual attempt on goal. Liverpool, for their part, soon settled into comfortably rhythmic possession without troubling understudy Alex McCarthy in the Palace goal. Origi had arguably one of the better opportunities for the visitors in the first half, unleashing a curling attempt that just missed the target.
With Palace desperate to avoid a home defeat and unwilling to commit too many players forward, the match congealed into an energetic, if ultimately fruitless, cycle in which Liverpool attacks fizzled out against the bulwark that was erected just outside of Palace's box, in turn precipitating enterprising runs from Zaha and Bolasie that resulted in much consternation but little actual danger. For all their possession, the visitors were unable to put a shot on target, and when half time came, it was Palace that looked the more likely to open scoring.
So it was, shortly after the pause, that Palace broke the deadlock. A Palace corner led to the ball pinballing around the Liverpool box off several players before falling to Joe Ledley in a bit of space, who made no mistake drilling home through the throng. It was a deserved lead, and one sensed that Klopp's substitutions would be arriving sooner rather than later. Liverpool, to their credit, refused to be subdued after going behind, but were unable to generate many new ideas up front. With Palace looking to clog everything up, the previously ponderous Liverpool buildup was slowed even further to truly glacial speeds.
At the hour mark, and as expected, Klopp brought on Coutinho for Flanagan, moving Milner to fullback. It was a roll of the dice in search of more creativity, and one that was almost immediately nullified by a rash tackle from Milner that drew a second yellow card. Liverpool were now down to ten men.
As is sometimes the case when one side is reduced in numbers, Milner's expulsion precipitated a sequence of much better football for the visitors. When the equalizer came, however, it arrived courtesy of a horror show clearance from McCarthy that fell right to Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian did not spurn the gift, and amazingly, shockingly, Liverpool were now level. The match suddenly shifted into a higher gear, with both sides taking turns to have their attacks undone by an errant final pass or timely toe poke.
Staring another loss of points in the face, Palace committed more men forward, looking to make their numerical advantage count. Dwight Gayle and Bakary Sako were summoned from the bench to maximize the number of "Bad Omens For Liverpool" on the pitch. They perhaps did not expect to become yet another milestone in the remarkable transformation of Dejan Lovren from comedy punchline into something that cannot be destroyed by conventional weapons.
Klopp played a last card of his own, bringing on Benteke for Origi. With fatigue and nerves in abundance on the pitch, this was a scenario well suited for the Belgian. Indeed, despite being shorthanded, Liverpool were in the ascendancy in the final minutes of the match, as Benteke found space to shoot right at McCarthy and Moreno pounced on a loose ball to rattle the post from distance.
Inevitably, Damien Delany, who had been one of Palace's more impressive defenders during the contest, found himself alone with Benteke in the box, and slid in for the challenge despite the Belgian having no real place to go. Slight, but noticeable, contact resulted in Benteke going down, and after consulting with his assistant, referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot amidst howls of indignation from the home supporters. Benteke converted the penalty himself to complete Palace's nightmare.
Against the odds, Liverpool had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Selhurst Park, in a season where the opposite has always seemed more likely. For Liverpool supporters, it may have been a disappointment that the team were not able to repeat the convincing display against the City, but with a frantic final stretch looming, most will agree that it is sometimes better to be lucky than good.