Liverpool out-thought, out-fought by Crystal Palace
CRYSTAL PALACE 3
(Dwight Gayle 17, Joe Ledley 78, Mile Jedinak 81)
(Rickie Lambert 2)
Once again, Liverpool came unstuck at Selhurst Park. But, unlike last season, this result will genuinely hurt them.
Much was made of the 3-3 draw in April, the extraordinary collapse that saw Brendan Rodgers' side give up a three-goal lead in the closing stages.
In truth, it made little difference to the destination of the title.
Liverpool lost their grip on the trophy when they were beaten by Chelsea at Anfield. Manchester City were still going to win their last two games.
Last night's result, in real terms, was far worse. They took the lead inside two minutes through Rickie Lambert, but then, their performance collapsed.
Not only were they beaten, but they were deservedly beaten.
Crystal Palace, a team who started the day in the relegation zone, out-thought and out-fought them.
Dwight Gayle equalised just 15 minutes later after Lambert's opener.
Joe Ledley put the London side ahead with 12 minutes to go and then Mile Jedinak curled a gorgeous free-kick three minutes later into the top corner to finish the game.
Not even the most ardent Liverpool fan could claim that they deserved any more.
The draw in April was embarrassing, but it didn't cost Liverpool anything.
This result was costly. Costly to Liverpool's bid to finish in the top four, already a forlorn hope.
Costly to confidence in the squad, particularly the defenders who performed so miserably in the driving rain.
But, most of all, it will be costly to Rodgers. There has been a run on the bank of patience that he built up last season.
Tempers are fraying and serious, justifiable questions are being asked of his abilities.
Rodgers was not solely responsible for the signings this summer.
That falls under the remit of Liverpool's transfer committee, with the manager only playing a part in the decision making.
But, even with that in mind, you have to wonder how he is getting so little out of these players.
Dejan Lovren was one of the smartest defenders in the league last year, but he looks out of his depth now.
Adam Lallana cost almost as much as Cesc Fabregas, but hasn't had the same effect on his new team.
And then there's Steven Gerrard.
There were signs at the World Cup in the summer that Gerrard was a fading force.
Not in the unfortunate header that allowed Luis Suarez to score Uruguay's winner, but in the wider aspects of his game.
He is slower now, he has lost his edge. His efforts to make up for those weakening powers sometimes put his team in danger.
The ferocious snapshots from the edge of the box are no longer accurate. He is not the force he was and the team are suffering.
Liverpool's owners will not be keen to swing the axe at a man who nearly won the title last year.
But Rodgers is now skidding down a slippery slope.
He has tough decisions to make. He has to remove the players who are no longer performing.
This is no longer a case of winning the title, or even returning to the Champions League. Rodgers is now fighting for his future.