Friday 9 December 2016

Dann haunts Reds to hand Klopp first loss

Liverpool 1-2 Crystal palace

Simon Hughes

Published 09/11/2015 | 02:30

Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann celebrates scoring their winning goal alongside Damien Delaney
Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann celebrates scoring their winning goal alongside Damien Delaney
Steven Gerrard was back at Anfield to watch from the stands
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino battles with Crystal Palace's James McArthur

"You must be sick of us," the Crystal Palace supporters chanted, as the sense that Liverpool would slither to their first defeat under Jurgen Klopp was too overwhelming to really contest the assertion with any force.

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After all but killing Liverpool's title dreams in 2014 and wrecking Steven Gerrard's farewell here last May, Scott Dann's header with eight minutes remaining was the clinching moment for Palace.

The centre-half, who grew up a few miles away in Kirkdale and was spotted by Walsall scouts 12 years ago playing in the Anfield Junior Sunday League, having been ignored by both Merseyside clubs, celebrated the goal like his life's mission had been completed.

Dann's intervention sucked the energy out of a Liverpool team that for all but two fixtures a season, he supports; a team that made history by losing to Palace for a third league game in succession, the first time it has ever happened.

Klopp remained in his technical area, urging Liverpool forward. Earlier, when Philippe Coutinho had struck an equaliser at the end of a fabulous move, Klopp turned to the fans in the paddock and high-fived the ones he could get close to in the front row.

Now, with Palace ahead again, he was disappointed with the contrasting reaction behind him, admitting that the early exit of supporters suddenly made him feel "very alone," before adding an important caveat that it was his team's responsibility to ensure nobody leaves the stadium prematurely, "not one minute before the end".

"We decide when it is over," he said, exaggerating that between the 82nd minute when Dann scored, and the conclusion of injury-time, Liverpool could have plundered eight goals.

"Big decisions are made in moments when you are tired," he reasoned. "Tonight it feels so bad because it was so absolutely not necessary."

It must have already dawned on Klopp that his principal task is the undertaking of a relatively recent cultural shift that has scourged Anfield, one that dictates when it feels like Liverpool are verging on a bad result, it usually happens.

It had perhaps felt like a breakthrough had been made on the issue, considering the response when Mamadou Sakho fell writhing in agony and holding his knee towards the end of the first half, with Liverpool already behind.

Though Sakho left Anfield on crutches and with his leg in a brace, he tried to carry on despite the fact Dejan Lovren was ready for his introduction as a substitute.

Defiance

Sakho, hearing the crowd sing his name, gave it another go; his defiance proving to be an immediate inspiration because Coutinho pounced shortly afterwards.

That, ultimately, Sakho could not continue for more than a few more minutes was a devastating blow for Klopp who said he'd rather lose 4-1 than lose him for what could be a considerable period of time.

Alan Pardew, the Palace manager, was rather more positive about Liverpool's performance than Klopp, with the German frustrated that his players could only meet the standards he expects for 60 minutes rather than 95.

Pardew conceded that his ambition was fortunate to be rewarded with a victory considering periods of intense Liverpool command, with Palace playing on the counter-attack.

Pardew, though, had recognised that Liverpool's Thursday night trip to Rubin Kazan posed an opportunity to expose fatigue.

His conviction was illustrated by a bold selection policy: starting with two centre-forwards with qualities than can unsettle entire defences.

It was quite clear that Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako must have been told to simply charge at their opponents every chance they had.

In the opening 40 seconds, Sako set after goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who wanted to take his time switching the ball from one foot to the other.

Bolasie's presence, as it was in each of Palace's previous triumphs over Liverpool, was significant; his balance almost defying belief, with bulky defenders like Martin Skrtel and Sakho bouncing off those oxen thighs of his as if Mike Tyson were swatting an over-eager amateur boxer to one side.

Skrtel and Sakho attempted to readdress the power balance by separately cracking into tackles on the Congolese early on. Yet his movement occupied the minds of others.

For Palace's opening goal, he seemed to dominate half of the pitch, with Alberto Moreno too worried by his position infield to control properly, enabling Wilfried Zaha the space to deliver a cross aimed at, you guessed it, Bolasie.

From there, Emre Can made a mess of the clearance, and Bolasie was able to turn on the edge of the box before releasing a thumping shot that may have cut Mignolet in half had he been able to get near it.

Coutinho's equaliser came following a three-man sequence involving Jordon Ibe, Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana and although Liverpool looked more likely to score again thereafter, Palace's strengths were Liverpool's weaknesses; Dann being able to win two headers from Yohan Cabaye's corner kick to force the ball over the line.

Dann, once a season-ticket holder at Anfield, must have dreamt of this happening.

Independent News Service

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