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    Liverpool 1-2 Crystal Palace Match Report

    Christian Benteke marked his return to Anfield with two goals to earn his Crystal Palace side a vital three points in their battle against relegation.

    The former Liverpool striker, who was deemed surplus to requirements following a single season at the club, scored the winning goal 16 minutes from time to virtually secure The Eagles' Premier League status for another season.

    Jurgen Klopp's side looked on course for all three points when Philippe Coutinho gave the hosts a 24th-minute lead but the visitors recovered well, with Benteke equalising shortly before half-time.

    The defeat could prove damaging for Liverpool's Champions League hopes, with Manchester United moving within three points of The Reds following their victory over Burnley earlier in the afternoon.

    Liverpool went into the match in excellent form having recorded back-to-back away wins over Stoke and West Brom to consolidate their position in the race to finish the season in the top-four.

    Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson all remained unavailable due to injury but the club were able to select Lucas Leiva and Joel Matip after the duo had been forced to miss training with muscular problems.

    Crystal Palace, meanwhile, were enjoying their best spell of the season having enjoyed five wins from their last seven matches and had also beaten Liverpool on the last two occasions that the sides had met at Anfield.

    The Eagles were without the services of on loan defender Mamadou Sakho, who was ineligible to face his parent club, while James Tomkins had recovered from a calf injury to make his first appearance in over three weeks.

    After managing to silence the Anfield crowd in the early stages, it was Palace who came closest to taking the lead when Benteke weaved past three Liverpool defenders before placing a 20-yard effort narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

    Liverpool failed to create anything of note from open play throughout the first-half but a foul by Yohan Cabaye on Philippe Coutinho allowed the Brazilian to size-up his options with a central free-kick from 30 yards.

    Coutinho provided the moment of inspiration that his side had been lacking as he curled the free-kick into the left-hand corner, past the forlorn dive of Wayne Hennessey, to give the Champions League-chasers a 24th-minute lead.

    Palace responded admirably to falling a goal behind when Yohan Cabaye produced another outstanding moment of quality three minutes before half-time to present Christian Benteke with the chance to equalise.

    Benteke was found by the French international's pinpoint cross, which was delivered into the space between Nathaniel Clyne and Joel Matip, and he duly finished clinically with his left-foot from six yards.

    The Eagles may even have extended their lead in first-half stoppage time if Benteke's effort, when picked-out by Jason Puncheon just inside the penalty area, had been directed either side of a grateful Simon Mignolet.

    Liverpool began the second-half with a much greater intensity, with Philippe Coutinho starting to influence proceedings in the attacking third of the field with several weaving runs.

    After some dazzling footwork, the Brazilian fired waywardly over the crossbar from the first of three sights of goal that he had enjoyed during a devastating six-minute spell at the start of the half.

    Coutinho was unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty when he skipped past two Crystal Palace defenders before deciding to stay on his feet when the challenge of Martin Kelly hampered his momentum.

    The forward's subsequent effort on goal was blocked by James Tomkins from close-range, while his header from Nathaniel Clyne's cross just minutes later was heading wide before it was deflected harmlessly towards goal off Divock Origi.

    Having weathered a storm at the beginning of the half, Palace once again began to grow into the game and offered a devastating threat on the counter-attack through the likes of Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke.

    The Eagles were also dangerous from set-pieces, with an unmarked Yohan Cabaye firing over from 10 yards from a move that was started by the Frenchman's free-kick after Clyne had fouled Zaha.

    The warning signs were not heeded, however, as Palace took the lead in the match through Benteke's winning goal on 74 minutes after the home side were unable to deal with Andros Townsend's inswinging corner.

    The England international's delivery evaded both Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip, who both attempted to clear, with Benteke finding himself unmarked to head the ball powerfully past Mignolet from inside the six-yard box.

    Palace managed to dig deep for the remainder of the match in order to hang on to their lead, with the victory taking them seven points above the drop zone and within two points of 10th-place Watford.

    It was yet another sound defensive performance from the London team, who were without Mamadou Sakho and Scott Dann in central defence but were rarely stretched by the home side throughout the match.

    Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke posed a threat to Liverpool whenever the hosts lost possession, with the clinical finishing of the Belgian proving the difference between the two teams.

    The Eagles, who move up to 12th position, have now beaten Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks, while Sunday's victory was the third time they have beaten their opponents at Anfield in as many seasons.

    Sam Allardyce's side return to action on Wednesday night for the visit of Tottenham before turning their attention towards another home encounter against Burnley three days later.

    Liverpool, meanwhile, were unable to build upon the lead given to them by Philippe Coutinho, who was the only player in a Reds shirt who looked like providing the inspiration in an otherwise insipid performance.

    The defensive frailties that have plagued Jurgen Klopp's side for much of the season were on display once again, with Christian Benteke finding himself all alone to head home Andros Townsend's corner from close-range.

    While Liverpool controlled 72 per cent of the possession and had double the number of efforts on goal as Palace, they badly missed the pace of Sadio Mane, the driving force of Jordan Henderson and the ingenuity of Adam Lallana.

    The Reds remain in third-place, a point ahead of fourth-place Manchester City and two ahead of fifth-place Manchester United, while both Manchester clubs will go head-to-head on Thursday night in one of their two matches in hand.

    Next up for the 18-time league champions is an away trip to Walter Mazzarri's Watford side on Monday night, the scene of their joint-heaviest defeat of last season.
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool 1-2 Crystal Palace Match Report Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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