Liverpool 1-2 Crystal Palace: Christian Benteke double boosts Eagles' survival hopes
By James Dale
Last Updated: 24/04/17 12:37am
Christian Benteke scored twice on his Anfield return as Crystal Palace came from behind to beat Liverpool 2-1 on Sunday.
Philippe Coutinho had put Liverpool ahead on 24 minutes with a glorious curling free-kick from distance but Benteke levelled just before half-time, exploiting some slack defending to convert at the far post.
Former Liverpool striker Benteke then headed a 74th-minute winner after the home side failed to deal with a corner, his fifth goal as an opposition player at Anfield denting his old club's top-four hopes.
The result leaves Liverpool just three points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United, who have two games in hand on the Reds, but sends Palace seven points clear of relegation.
Mamadou Sakho, ineligible to play against his parent club, was replaced by James Tomkins in the Palace defence, while Jurgen Klopp named an unchanged starting XI despite pre-match rhetoric of injury problems.
Palace, whose last five wins have been with their lowest possession of the season, were happy to let Liverpool have the ball early on and look for either the wings or target-man Benteke as an outlet.
The Belgian carved out the game's first chance after 19 minutes, shrugging off Lucas Leiva then dancing between Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip before curling a shot just wide of the post.
Kept at distance by the Palace defence, Coutinho needed a set-piece to finally pick his spot, sending Hennessey dashing across goal in vain with an inch-perfect free-kick to put Liverpool ahead midway through the first half.
But Klopp's side were unable to hold on to their lead until half-time. Minutes after being booked for diving, an unmarked Benteke finished into the roof of the net from Yohan Cabaye's cross to the back post (42), following up an initially muted celebration with a rock-paper-scissors handshake with on-loan team-mate Sakho.
Liverpool pressed after the break, with Coutinho clipped by Martin Kelly in the Palace box but staying on his feet to see his shot blocked.
Cabaye blazed over the bar from just yards out in the 71st minute as Palace continued to threaten on the break, and delivered a decisive blow just three minutes later.
Liverpool failed to clear a Palace corner and Benteke was allowed to run free into the six-yard box and he stooped low to head home beyond Simon Mignolet.
Klopp, limited in first-team players on the bench, threw on Marko Grujic, Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold in search of an equaliser, but Palace held on for their sixth win in eight games under Allardyce as Liverpool surrendered ground in the race for Champions League qualification.
Liverpool: Mignolet (6), Clyne (6), Matip (5), Lovren (5), Milner (6), Lucas (5), Can (6), Wijnaldum (7), Coutinho (8), Firmino (7), Origi (6)
Subs used: Grujic (6), Moreno (6), Alexander-Arnold (6)
Crystal Palace: Hennessey (6), Ward (6), Tomkins (7), Kelly (6), Schlupp (6), Milivojevic (6), Cabaye (7), Puncheon (6), Zaha (6), Townsend (6), Benteke (8)
Subs used: Van Aanholt (6), Delaney (n/a), Campbell (n/a)
Man of the match: Christian Benteke