Saturday 18 November 2017

Alan Pardew takes aim at Christian Benteke after dramatic late penalty

Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool

Dwight Gayle turns away as Kolo Toure clears the ball at Selhurst Park Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Dwight Gayle turns away as Kolo Toure clears the ball at Selhurst Park Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew Photo: Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Joe Ledley celebrates with team mates after scoring the first goal for Crystal Palace Photo: Reuters / Tony O'Brien

Jim White

The most significant physical contribution at Selhurst Park was that provided by Damien Delaney's knee.

In the last seconds of a game Liverpool had shown little inclination to win, the slightest of touches from the Palace defender sent substitute Christian Benteke hurtling dramatically to the turf.

Initially referee Andre Marriner awarded a goal-kick. But after intervention from Scott Ledger, his assistant, he changed his opinion to a penalty.

The Belgian picked himself up and rolled the ball into the corner of Alex McCarthy's net from the penalty spot, sending Jurgen Klopp into a frenzy of exuberant celebration on the touchline.

And no wonder the Liverpool manager looked pleased: this was three points it would have been absurd to imagine half an hour before.

"We needed a bit of luck, of course," said Klopp. "To be honest nobody thought that we would try to make another goal, but Christian did. It was really good."

So it was that the Liverpool manager left south London ahead of his very local European test on Thursday with the biggest gift of his season.

His team were hardly in this game, barely registering a shot, a man down after James Milner had been sent off for two bookable lunges.

Then first McCarthy, slipping on the turf to spoon the ball straight to the feet of Roberto Firmino, handed them an equaliser to match Joe Ledley's smart opener for the home side, before Delaney presented them with the win while on his knees.

Some guys get all the luck. And Klopp's grin was as wide as Alan Pardew's scowl.

"That one - wow," said the Palace manager of the penalty decision. "The linesman assumes that little touch is a penalty.

"He [Benteke] makes the most of it. If you think that touch affects the fall he makes you seriously need to have another look.

"It's an issue that people need to have a look at in the game."

You could understand Pardew's frustration. Palace had begun so brightly. With Yannick Bolasie back pulling the strings, with Wilfried Zaha tearing down the right wing, with Emmanuel Adebayor quick and mobile despite being weighed down by several excess pounds of hair, they bore no resemblance to a side who have the worst record in the Premier League this calendar year (and that includes Aston Villa).

Within the first 10 minutes Adebayor, played in by a deft Bolasie touch, had forced Simon Mignolet to save brilliantly, then hit the bar with a header from the ensuing corner.

Everything suggested the long drought stretching back to December 12 was about to end: this was surely going to be a home win at long last.

Across the pitch, Liverpool were stretched. Alberto Moreno was struggling to contain Zaha; Milner was booked for a sharp tackle on Yohan Cabaye.

Then, after 47 minutes, came the reward for Palace. Cabaye took a corner, the ball pinballed around the Liverpool area, Pape Souare had a shot that cannoned out to Ledley, and he fired low from the edge of the area into the corner of Mignolet's goal.


The goal spurred Palace forward. Zaha was causing problems with every incursion and, on 62 minutes, an increasingly tetchy Milner brought him down on the edge of the Palace area and was sent off for a second bookable offence.

At that point, Palace should have eased away.

Instead, Klopp brought on Philippe Coutinho for full-back Jon Flanagan and told his team to attack.

With such bold endeavour, the balance swung Liverpool's way. And their luck changed too.

Barely five minutes after going down to 10 men, a mistake by the Palace goalkeeper gifted Liverpool unearned parity.

The ball was passed back to McCarthy by Ledley in such a routine manner that the Welshman peeled away looking for the return pass. But McCarthy slipped going to kick and spooned the softest of openings to Firmino, who clinically slid the ball home.

"I have seen worse goalkeeper mistakes," said Klopp. "But if Firmino is not in that space, nothing happens. We make pressure. If you like, we forced that situation."

From there, Palace barely had another shot as Liverpool pressed ever higher up the pitch, Moreno rattling the post with a 30-yard fizzer of a shot.

As Klopp sent on a further forward reinforcement in Benteke, the momentum shifted entirely.

And then came the penalty, a moment that will occupy Pardew's nightmares for a long time.

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