Crystal Palace strike late to hand Jurgen Klopp first Liverpool loss
LIVERPOOL, England -- Three thoughts on Crystal Palace's 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League on Sunday.
1. Dann hands Klopp first Liverpool defeat
It has been a month of firsts for Jurgen Klopp. He has enjoyed his maiden win and opening league victory, but a month to the day of his appointment, Liverpool marked the anniversary in unwanted fashion: Klopp suffered his first defeat with the club. Just as they had in May, Crystal Palace departed Anfield with three points.
They did so courtesy of a Scouser and a Liverpool fan. Scott Dann scored the winner, heading in at the second attempt after Simon Mignolet had blocked his initial effort. That Liverpool lost after producing a bright performance indicates the scale of Klopp's task. That Palace won, though, should be no shock. Alan Pardew's team are intrepid travellers, whose pace on the break equips them to play away from home. This was a 10th victory in 14 league games on the road. It is a remarkable record.
Liverpool, who have an unfortunate history of conceding from set pieces, should rue their inability to defend Yohan Cabaye's late corner. That was not their only defensive worry. Mamadou Sakho hobbled off with a knee injury and while his replacement, Dejan Lovren, came close to scoring with two headers, he brings an element of frailty.
That said, the Croatian was a blameless substitute when Palace broke the deadlock. The error was made elsewhere. It was an unfortunate replay for Emre Can, who had botched a clearance at Goodison Park when Everton scored in Brendan Rodgers' final game in charge. On this occasion, he succeeded only in teeing up Yannick Bolasie, who spun, shot and scored.
Liverpool levelled. Out of form at the start of Klopp's reign, Philippe Coutinho's fortunes have improved swiftly. His decisive double at Stamford Bridge was followed by a third goal in two league games. Liverpool can only wish his colleagues were as clinical. Christian Benteke was wasteful and Adam Lallana's frequent attempts did not yield a goal. The encouraging element for Liverpool was that they created plenty of chances. They look like a team making progress, even if the result does not reflect that.
2. Bolasie covers up Palace striker shortage
It would be a worrying statistic for a relegation-threatened team; it is an extraordinary one for a side who could qualify for Europe: Three months into the season, Palace have yet to see any of their strikers score a league goal.
It gives Pardew a certain logic in dispensing with them altogether. Palace began with four wingers and no specialist centre-forwards. Instead, Bolasie and Bakary Sako were deployed as forceful, free-running men in the middle. If some conventional attackers bring reliability, they offer unpredictability.
Centre-backs, Lovren in particular, scarcely seem to relish being isolated one-on-one with such dangerous runners. Bolasie brings a wide repertoire of tricks and a hint of menace. What he offers less often is goals.
He has a Premier League hat trick to his name in 2015, against Sunderland, but this was only his second strike in other matches. Yet Anfield is a favourite playground for the Congolese. He has been the scourge of Liverpool before and was the outstanding player on the pitch in May when Palace marred Steven Gerrard's Anfield farewell by making off with all three points.
Sako, meanwhile, had scored in Palace's win at Stamford Bridge. He had the opportunity to secure a notable double but spurned a glorious chance when Wilfried Zaha found him utterly unmarked.
Barely three minutes later, Pardew replaced him with Connor Wickham, a professional centre-forward but one who, in an injury-affected time at Selhurst Park, is yet to score. It is far too soon to write him off, but while Palace are now eighth, it prompts the question of what they could do with a prolific finisher. They are missing Loic Remy, a man they never even signed, but a summer transfer target who eluded them and one who found the net regularly for Pardew's Newcastle. Perhaps, had they recruited him, they might nearer the top four now.
3. Ibe stakes his case
Fresh from opening his Liverpool account and delivering his best performance of the season in Kazan on Thursday, Jordon Ibe was promoted to the Premier League starting XI. He was the beneficiary of James Milner's hamstring injury, which sidelined the stand-in captain, but Ibe's selection gave Liverpool a more familiar look for a Klopp team.
His best Dortmund sides played 4-2-3-1 with an out-and-out right-sided midfielder in Jakub Blaszczykowski. Liverpool have tended to lack width -- a consequence of an oddly compiled squad with a solitary natural winger -- and Ibe illustrated why he is the anomaly by hovering near the touchline.
As Coutinho cut in from the left, it gave Liverpool a lopsided look. That served in their favour when the Brazilian struck. A series of promising attacks stemmed from the combination on the right of Ibe and Nathaniel Clyne. Their equaliser came from the duo, the winger providing a penetrative pass for the overlapping full-back. Lallana applied a delicate flick to Clyne's cross, and Coutinho supplied an assured finish.
Liverpool have too few top-class partnerships in the team, but Clyne and Ibe have the potential to form one. Each is quick and capable of crossing well. Theirs may be an embryonic understanding, but they showed confidence in each other: too much, perhaps, when Ibe tried to back-heel the ball to Clyne in their own penalty area and Zaha intercepted. Yet Liverpool escaped unscathed then, and Clyne and Ibe offered moments to suggest they could be Klopp's new Lukasz Piszczek and Blaszczykowski.
Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.