Liverpool throw away lead, and possibly Premier League title, at Crystal Palace

Liverpool under pressure in Premier League title race. Jonathan Wilson reports from London.

Luis Suarez, right, scored one of Liverpool's goals against Crystal Palace on Monday night. Dylan Martinez / Reuters
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Crystal Palace 3

Delaney 79’, Gayle 81’, 88’

Liverpool 3

Allen 18’, Sturridge 53’, Suarez 55’

Man of the match

Yannick Bolasie (Crystal Palace)

LONDON // Improbably and implausibly, Liverpool probably conceded the Premier League title on Monday night, leaking three goals in the final 12 minutes as a comfortable win became an agonising draw, meaning four points from games at home to Aston Villa and West Ham United will, barring a 10-goal swing, give Manchester City the title.

Perhaps Liverpool should have sat on the 3-0 lead they had established in the first 55 minutes but, they chased more, trying to reduce City’s advantage of goal difference. That was understandable; less so was the capitulation having let in the first as Palace, driven on by a ferociously noisy Selhurst Park crowd, ripped into a team that looked exhausted, physically and mentally.

Liverpool’s fast starts have been one of their hallmarks this season and they produced another. Luis Suarez had threatened to get in behind the Palace back four on a couple of occasions and Glen Johnson, attacking the space behind Yannick Bolasie, had looped a header just over when they took the lead after 18 minutes.

Palace, normally so good at defending set pieces – in fact they had not conceded from one since Tony Pulis took charge in November – had already conceded a free header to Mamadou Sakho when Steven Gerrard’s left-wing corner found Joe Allen unmarked at the back post. He calmly headed his first league goal for Liverpool.

Having gone ahead, Liverpool’s intensity dropped a little and it took two superb saves from Simon Mignolet – one low to his left from Jason Puncheon, one high to his right from Mile Jedinak – to keep them ahead by half-time. The second half, though, began the same way as the first, with a surge of Liverpool pressure. A Daniel Sturridge curler was pushed onto the post by Julian Speroni and Suarez lashed the rebound wide – the sort of chance he would surely have snaffled a month ago.

But, after 53 minutes, Sturridge did double their advantage, cutting in from the left and hitting a low shot that beat Speroni with the help of a slight deflection.

Two minutes later it was three, Suarez playing a one-two with Raheem Sterling and finishing calmly. The Uruguayan was struggling with illness and was clearly not quite at his best but the goal, his 31st of the campaign, pulled him level with Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer for most goals in a Premier League season.

With the game seemingly won, it became about the hunt for goals for Liverpool, both full-backs pushing high up the pitch, looking to get behind Palace’s narrow back four. But their problem all season has been their defending and the flaw almost undid them again.

They first conceded with 12 minutes remaining, Damien Delaney’s long-range effort deflecting in off Johnson. Three minutes later Bolasie broke and teed up Dwight Gayle for a second. Then, eight minutes after that, Glenn Murray laid the ball off for Gayle to stroke in his fifth of the season.

Even then Liverpool might have won it, but with the goal gaping, Victor Moses missed his kick.

Seasons are settled on more than that, but it felt a decisive moment.

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