Crystal Palace 0-2 Liverpool: 5 things we learned as Klopp’s men overcame Selhurst test

Sadio Mane and James Milner were on the scoresheet as Liverpool maintained their 100% start to the season.

REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Liverpool defeated Crystal Palace 2-0 on Monday evening to keep early pace at the top of the Premier League. 

A James Milner penalty followed up by a Sadio Mane stoppage time goal was enough to see off Roy Hodgson’s men.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s straight red card in the second-half left Palace struggling, an easier decision for Michael Oliver than the more controversial on to award Mohamed Salah a penalty for Mamadou Sakho’s late first-half lunge.

Oliver Emmerson watched the game for RealSport. Here are five things he learned from the game:

  1. 1 Van Dijk might be the best centre back in the league

    Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine 

    Defending is an art form. This is often taken for granted as attacking performances steal the headlines. Defenders earn their reputation by not making mistakes as opposed to standing out in matches.

    Virgil van Dijk clearly didn't get the memo. Dominating Christian Benteke in a manner that some could class as bullying, the Dutchman won 11 of his 19 duels and completed 92.3% of passes, 10 of his 11 long passes finding their target.

    Barely giving Benteke a sniff all night, van Dijk provided more evidence as to why Klopp and Sporting Director Michael Edwards sanctioned a record-breaking deal for him in January. His dominance against Palace's aerial assault was so obvious, leading to a comfortable Man of the Match award. 

    Adding to that, Van Dijk walked centre back novice Joe Gomez through the game, offering a calmness that benefitted his young partner and helped Liverpool to a second successive clean sheet. 

  2. 2 Crystal Palace will be just fine this season

    REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

    Having already taken three more points than they managed in the first seven games of last season, Monday's display offered further reassurance to Palace fans that they'll be just fine this season.

    Being a class below Manchester City's closest challengers is nothing to be ashamed of and it was credit to Palace's defensive organisation and resilience that they didn't allow the floodgates to open, making Liverpool work for their victory.

    Roy Hodgson was keen to stress how impressed he was with the performance of his side post-match, before getting hot and bothered about the referee. 

    He was right to be pleased with the performance as Palace kept themselves in the game when many expected they wouldn't. They'll take points off top six teams this year.

  3. 3 Liverpool could be scary this season...

    REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

    The general consensus in the immediate aftermath of the game was that Liverpool 'managed' a tough affair with a 'controlled performance' that 'got them over the line'.

    If that's a controlled performance, then the mind boggles at what the Reds will do when let off the leash this season.

    Controlled Liverpool enjoyed 64% of possession, had six shots on target whilst giving up just two, created five big chances and conceded none at all.

    It was bordering on domination, regardless of how the goals came about. If this is the way Liverpool are going to manage games, they're managing them in a way that most teams would describe as wiping the floor. 

    Against opposition that have proved to be a bogey side in recent years, this was a clear statement that Klopp's men aren't messing around this season.

  4. 4 Alisson has multiple strings to his bow

    Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

    Liverpool fans had a right to be pleased in the summer as they signed a goalkeeper with a reputation for being dominant aerially and capable of stunning saves. 

    However, they perhaps weren't expecting passing ability to be another weapon in the artillery of Alisson Becker. Although his short passing game was on show in the 4-0 thumping of West Ham a week earlier, the Brazilian took it up a notch this time with some delightful long balls to counter Palace's press. 

    Completing 11 of 13 long passes (and all of his short balls), two stood out in particular: one long pass set Roberto Firmino away against the Palace defence; another landed right on Andy Robertson's toe despite Alisson having red and blue shirts rushing at him as he went to play the ball.

    The limited goalkeeping work he had to do was done with efficiency, turning a Luka Milivojevic free-kick around the post before clutching Wilfried Zaha's deflected effort at 1-0.

    For all Manchester City's fans' displeasure, you can see why he's Brazil's number one.

  5. 5 Salah's 2017/18 will influence 2018/19

    REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

    Mohamed Salah had one of his poorer games in a Liverpool shirt on Monday night.

    Missing his finest chance of the game, Salah did well to bring down a sensational pass from Naby Keita but was left disappointed as he dinked the ball way over the bar.

    All other times, Palace kept him under wraps fairly well. Dispossessed three times, Salah managed just one shot on target. 

    Still, two assists and a red card were a good outlay. Salah wasn't in a particularly promising position to win his first-half penalty. Yet Mamadou Sakho seemed so scared of what he could do that there was no other decision for him than to hack at the Egyptian.

    Similarly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, when faced with the choice of hauling a clean-through Salah down or letting him shoot, was so sure that the Golden Boot holder would score that he took a blatant red card to prevent it.

    Having scored against West Ham, Salah was quieter and restrained against Palace. Despite that, he caused chaos through reputation. 

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