Liverpool and Crystal Palace shared the spoils at Anfield on Monday in the second round of the Premier League campaign, with Wilfried Zaha breaking the deadlock against the run of play in the 32nd minute, and Luis Diaz restoring the score balance in the 61st, four minutes after Darwin Nunez saw the red card raised against him for a violent clash with Palace defender Joachim Andersen.
As is always the case after a match with such a situation, the Nunez moment is currently the hottest talking point, so maybe it’s best to get that one out of the way straight away.
The red card
In short, it can be said, rather accurately, that the new Liverpool striker paid the price of lacking Premier League experience. Andersen pushed his buttons right from the first whistle, relentlessly working on sparking a conflict, with the sole aim of getting the passion to get the better of the Uruguayan. And it worked like a charm.
Whenever he could, Andersen used his arms to grab Nunez from behind, tackled him with excessive force, or shoved him in the back. He even resorted to completely unwarranted, cheeky little shoves, or putting his arm on his opponent before the ball even reached them.
And Nunez responded exactly in the way Andersen would’ve hoped for – by returning the shoves, squaring up, or returning the harsh tackles.
In that 57th minute, Anderson pulled yet another little provocation and got perhaps less than he wanted from Nunez, so he proceeded to yell at the Liverpool attacker, waving a finger at him in a threatening way. Nunez turned to face him rather sharply and his forehead made contact with Andersen’s chin, albeit with a slight jerk forward, at which the Palace defender threw himself to the ground in a most theatrical manner. Referee Paul Tierney sent Nunez off and booked Andersen.
Since he took over as the Palace boss a year ago, Patrick Vieira has changed the team’s approach to the game completely.
A number of previous bosses had the Eagles playing a tough defensive game, with constant numbers at the back, keeping the lines close, and hitting the opposition through counterattacks and set-pieces, as chance allows. Under the former Arsenal midfielder, Palace usually seek possession, to control the match, pushing forward in ways much more pleasing for neutral observers.
Nonetheless, Vieira was obviously aware that it would’ve been a mistake to try and outplay Liverpool at Anfield, and he reverted to five men at the back, three midfielders and two attackers. The ranks were once again closed, with even Jordan Ayew frequently involved in and around his own box. Only Zaha was left upfront, and his pace was enough to take advantage of Nathaniel Phillips messing up an offside trap and slot home past Alisson Becker in the 32nd minute.
The change in the approach was obviously effective, even if it did take a bit of luck in several situations for Vicente Guaita’s net to remain intact. After all, Liverpool were lucky at the other end a few times as well, as Zaha hit the post from close range and Eberechi Eze wasted another promising situation.
Even when Liverpool were left with 10 men on the pitch, the visitors did not push forward too rashly in search of a winner, and in the end, they will be happy with the evening’s work and the point they got out of it.
But the biggest problem the home side faced in this match (the Nunez situation aside) was a lack of accuracy in front of goal. Mohamed Salah, as well as Fabio Carvalho after he came on, had shots that left Guaita rooted to the spot only to fly an inch or two off target, while Nunez hit the post from close range in the first half. Young Harvey Elliott also tested the Palace goalkeeper, but in the end, only the 61st-minute blast from Diaz found its way into the net.
Klopp’s team didn’t give up on finding a winner right to the final whistle, but in the end, it wasn’t to be.