Football Features

Jurgen Klopp’s substitutes help Liverpool come from behind again to go top of Premier League

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:12, 9 December 2023

Liverpool were left thanking their substitutes as they came from behind to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park.

Once again the Reds opened the Premier League weekend in the early Saturday kick-off, and history wasn’t on their side. Since the start of last season, Liverpool had won just one of their seven Premier League away games kicking off at 12:30 on a Saturday, drawing three and losing three.

However, the only victory in that run came earlier this season as Liverpool went 1-0 down against Wolves before leaving Molineux with a 3-1 win. It was a pretty dull first half, perhaps to be expected in this time slot, particularly when you consider there was a midweek round of fixtures too.

The only real action came through Crystal Palace having a penalty disallowed for a foul in the build up, the correct decision though there was some annoyance about the length of the VAR review.

After that decision, it was only right that Palace would get a penalty after a VAR review, this time one that went on as the game was being played before eventually halted. Jean-Philippe Mateta stepped up to put Palace ahead, with Liverpool not having won after being behind in four games.

The game did change when Palace were reduced to 10 men, as Jordan Ayew received his second yellow card for stopping a break, but you felt as though something was coming. At half time, Joe Gomez was brought on for Wataru Endo, which allowed Trent Alexander-Arnold to move into midfield. While that change will have been made to free Alexander-Arnold more, it was actually Gomez who felt to be the bigger impact.

Of course, Alexander-Arnold did end the game with a match-high six chances created compared to Gomez’s one, but Gomez was a constant threat down the right flank with his direct running and crosses. Only Alexander-Arnold (six) had more crosses for Liverpool than Gomez’s four, though the former obviously had 45 more minutes on the pitch.

Just a minute before Ayew was sent off, Klopp brought on Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones, two players that would go on to change the game. Jones, within a couple of minutes of coming on, provided the assist for Mohamed Salah’s equaliser — the Egyptian’s 150th Premier League goal and 200th for Liverpool. It was a good assist for Jones too, shaping to shoot inside the box before laying the ball across to Salah with a smart pass, selling the defender under pressure.

Aided by having the extra main, Liverpool pushed and has the clock struck 90, Elliott got the winner. Salah was involved but this was all about Elliott, selling a midfielder with a shimmy before driving to the edge of the box and beating substitute goalkeeper Remi Matthews with a fine strike. It was the sixth goal Liverpool had scored via substitutes in the Premier League this season, with only Brighton & Hove Albion (10) and Arsenal (eight) netting more.

But crucially, for Liverpool, they have now won 18 points from losing positions, nearly half their current total (37) as they sit top of the table. Last season, only Crystal Palace (25) ended with more than Liverpool’s current total. Across Europe’s top five leagues, only Girona (19) have won more points from losing positions.

“76 minutes, a really bad game from us. We came here, I think you could see Crystal Palace in the beginning were insecure, low confidence levels, we could have done so many things and didn’t,” Jurgen Klopp told TNT Sports.

“We know that happens from time to time, in intense weeks the first half is sometimes a bit tricky. But obviously we wanted to do the second half better which, we were a bit more in control, because they only had counter attacks but that’s fine for them. But we lost the balls at the wrong moments and we had to defend with a lot of effort. Then they scored their goal.

“And then they get the red card, and we score the equaliser immediately. From that moment on we played really well. You can have much more problems against 10 men than we had today, we did that really well.

“And you saw today, subs can make a massive difference. It’s actually their job. Harvey played a wonderful game and scored a wonderful goal, I’m so happy for him. Curtis came on, really strong, Joe Gomez, oh my god. Cody and I’ve forgotten who else we brought on, so we changed system and it all worked out.”