Everything seemed to be going so well for Liverpool with just three games remaining in the Premier League. Their title rivals had both made expensive slip-ups to hand the initiative to the Merseyside club and the title was now theirs to lose.
Chelsea’s home defeat by Sunderland had all but extinguished their title hopes and they seemed distracted by a Champions League semi-final with Atletico Madrid. Speculation was rife that Jose Mourinho would field a weakened team against Liverpool at Anfield rather than risk further injuries. Liverpool only needed a point to maintain their advantage at the top and faced a defensive wall of blue shirts.
Chelsea were seemingly intent on time wasting, even at 0-0. This was to break up Liverpool’s rhythm and it worked to perfection. The home team created precious little going forward and a costly slip from Gerrard allowed Demba Ba to put the visitors ahead. Chelsea then had something to defend and their makeshift defence was more than up to the task, a late goal from Willian securing the three points.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers followed the traditional path of castigating the visiting team for playing negative football but insisted that his side would always try to win games. The defeat was not a fatal blow to their title chances but their capitulation against Crystal Palace may well prove to be so.
Having gone 3-0 up and apparently secured the victory, Liverpool had only 11 minutes to see out safely to keep the pressure on Manchester City. A deflected strike gave Palace hope and triggered widespread panic in the Liverpool ranks. The home side then sliced through the Reds’ defence twice more to draw level to complete an astonishing comeback. Amazingly, Liverpool still had time to win the game but Victor Moses missed the ball completely with the goal at his mercy.
The devastation hit Liverpool’s players at the final whistle with Suarez reduced to tears along with many of their shocked supporters. Rodgers has attempted to put a brave face on the result by insisting that they can be stronger next season. His defence will certainly have to be.
The much maligned Chelsea have conceded just 26 goals this season while Liverpool have shipped 49. They may have been more entertaining but sooner or later the 3-2 victories will turn into 3-3 draws which is exactly what happened at Palace. Liverpool must learn to be more tactically astute if they are to become champions next season.