Liverpool have had an uneven run so far in 2016, struggling to get results consistently in the league and falling out of the FA Cup while advancing in the Europa League. They’d lost the League Cup final to Manchester City only to turn around and, three days later, beat them convincingly in the league.
In a lot of ways, Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace encapsulated that inconsistency. Liverpool fought hard and likely edged the run of play but fell behind. Then they lost James Milner to a red card and looked done only to fight their way back into it and take all three points with the final meaningful kick of the match.
"It was a tough game, especially in the first half," said Jordan Henderson, speaking to the club’s official website following the match. "The second half didn’t start well and we conceded a goal, but from then I thought we grew in confidence, grew throughout the game and in the end I thought we deserved the three points.
"It shows that we never give up and we always go right until the end, which the manager has drummed into us. Since he’s arrived, I think that’s been one of the big things for us, to keep going until the end no matter what the circumstances are. I felt as though we did that, even when we went 1-0 down and 10 men."
Manager Jürgen Klopp’s never say die attitude may be leaving a mark on the side, but a little more consistency from the start of matches wouldn’t be the worst thing. Still, that belief seems a step in the right direction, and it’s difficult to imagine this side winning Sunday’s game the way they did without Klopp in charge.
Now, the question is whether they can build on that belief—both from Sunday’s late victory and from fighting back to beat City last week in the league after losing to them in the League Cup—with a pair of Europa League games against league rivals Manchester United that could go a long way towards defining Liverpool’s season.
Beat United over two legs, and Liverpool are through to the quarter-finals and can start to dream of winning the competition and qualifying for the Champions League next season. They will have also dealt a major blow to a side that sits just three points ahead of them in the league—and that with Liverpool having a game in hand.
"We kept going and we got better as the game went on," added Henderson. "We created chances and, for me, we deserved to win. We knew it would be difficult, which it was at times, and we didn’t play some of our best stuff, but overall it’s a very good day and we can take a lot of confidence from it."