JURGEN KLOPP baffled Liverpool’s fans with his team selection and they were still scratching their heads at full time despite victory.
Boss Klopp left out new singing Mo Salah and brought in Daniel Sturridge against Palace and nobody can still see why.
And after just over an hour Klopp changed his mind and performed a dramatic swap with dramatic results.
With more pace and energy along the wings to put even more pressure on wobbling Palace, Liverpool were finally able to make the breakthrough with 12 minutes left with Sadio Mane’s scrappy goal.
It means Liverpool get their first win of the season and Mane now has two Premier League goals in the last two games to underline a decent start to the campaign.
But it doesn’t answer the bigger questions about Klopp’s tactics and how will they get on should the club buckle and reluctantly agree to sell Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona.
For while Liverpool dominated the match it was in the vital area in front of goal where they struggled and without their little Brazilian playmaker it became a grind.
And at free kicks too Coutinho’s absence was felt more than ever when Palace were there for the taking.
Mane at last managed to stab the ball past Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey in the 77th minute after yet another attack down the left wing.
Involved in the goal was impressive debutant Andrew Robertson at left back who gave his team two great chances to score in the first half which were wasted.
The first went to Joel Matip who headed wide from three yards out in front of an open goal and the other from Mane who could not control another great centre from the new £10 million signing from Hull.
Liverpool also struggled from set-pieces without Coutinho’s wizardry.
This may explain why Klopp has rejected the latest offer for him from Barcelona even if his team selection can be a little confusing.
INTERACTIVE STATS – CLICK on the categories to find out how the teams fared
INTERACTIVE LINE-UPS– CLICK on a player’s number below to see their stats
FACTS, STATS, GOALS & LOLS
- Andrew Robertson made his first start for Liverpool since completing his summer move from Hull City.
- And despite being a full-back, he demonstrated his attacking credentials throughout the first half as he put in at least five crosses into the box.
- Despite not enjoying the best form for the Reds during his time at Liverpool, Christian Benteke went into today’s clash with plenty of confidence. He has scored more goals at Anfield as a visiting player (Five) than he did while with the club (Four).
- And Palace will also have gone out onto the pitch full of enthusiasm. They had won four of their last six trips to Anfield.
- Liverpool were completely dominant throughout the opening period. In fact, they had 70 per cent possession in the first 45 minutes.
- Benteke had the perfect opportunity to extend his goalscoring record on 57 minutes. But he could only manage to blaze over the bar.
- Speaking of records, Mane’s is not too shabby against Palace. He has now had a hand in five goals against them in just six matches. He has notched four himself and assisted another.
- There was a familiar face on Merseyside to take in this clash. Former Reds boss Gerard Houllier was among the spectators.
- And he was joined in the directors’ box by England manager Gareth Southgate.
WHAT THEY SAID
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to Sky Sports: “It was a hard job. I have no idea how much we had the ball but it was a lot. We had moments in the first half but had to be more patient because they were deep.
“We didn’t score but we didn’t give counter attacks away. Second half we did it better, the first part was really good. We were really awake and defended really well and I loved the goal because it was not a clear situation. It was a counter pressing situation. We had other chances but I am completely happy with how did the job today.
“Anfield helps a lot I think today it was the difference.”
Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer speaking to Sky Sports: “We played almost 90 minutes very solid. We frustrated Liverpool sometimes and we were very organised. We played a little deeper but also that was because Liverpool are a team you have to respect.
“We have to fight every minute together. In 15 minutes we lost the game at Selhurst Park and today we were 95 minutes very concentrated and one unlucky touch we conceded the goal.
“I am happy with the spirit, not the result but we can build from here.”
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Liverpool: Mignolet 6, Gomez 7, Matip 7, Klavan 7, Robertson 7, Wijnaldum 6 (Solanke 71, 6), Henderson 7, Milner 7, Mane 7, Sturridge 6 (Salah 61, 6), Firmino 7 (Lovren 90 6)
Subs not used: Karius, Can, Origi, Flanagan
Crystal Palace: Hennessey 9, Fosu-Mensah 7, Dann 6, Tomkins 7, Ward 6, Milivojevic 5 (Kaikai 77, 6), Puncheon 6 (McArthur 73, 6), Van Aanholt 7 (Schlupp 84, 6), Townsend 6, Loftus-Cheek 7, Benteke 5
Subs not used: Speroni, Cabaye, Lokilo, Kelly