Slip slidin' away
Liverpool have only themselves to blame for faltering in title race
CRYSTAL PALACE 3
(Damien Delaney 79, Dwight Gayle 81, 88)
(Joe Allen 18, Daniel Sturridge 53, Luis Suarez 55)
"Slip slidin' away, slip slidin' away. You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip slidin' away."
Paul Simon's classic springs to mind after Liverpool's collapse against Crystal Palace yesterday morning (Singapore time).
For the Reds, there can be no excuses, no sympathy even. They were too gung-ho, too naive.
In their desperation to make up for a vastly inferior goal difference against Manchester City, they totally lost the plot at Selhurst Park.
Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez had scored a goal apiece to give the Reds a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead over Palace.
Then they somehow contrived to concede three goals in nine minutes.
So, three points became one.
The capitulation means that City now need just four points in their last two games to clinch the Premiership title on goal difference, or fewer if the Reds can't beat Newcastle on Sunday.
Where did it all go wrong?
Manager Brendan Rodgers summed it up aptly by saying: "I think we got carried away and lost the defensive structure to our game."
This was a premature Premiership charge no one saw coming. And those final moments of the Palace match illustrated just how unready Liverpool are for a title push.
It told in their inability to prioritise after Palace reduced the deficit to 3-1 in the 79th minute.
According to Rodgers, it was emphasised at half-time that "the most important thing was to win the game". That was exactly what was needed to put the pressure on City to win their remaining two matches.
To begin with, bridging a goal difference of nine at this stage of the season was unrealistic.
Former Kop favourite Jamie Carragher spoke of a lack of leaders in the Liverpool rearguard to steady the ship. But the failings extended beyond that.
Where was Steven Gerrard, the veteran skipper whom Liverpool have always depended on to lead them out of trouble?
Where had Glen Johnson's defending gone to?
And why did Rodgers himself, when the score was still 3-2 in Liverpool's favour, introduce Victor Moses, an attacking player? Surely, it was clear by then that they needed to shore up a fast-crumbling defence?
The disaster was not the result of one man's incompetence.
Liverpool collapsed collectively, to the delight of rival fans and horror of their own.
When push came to shove, they couldn't hold their nerves.
It is time for the reckless Reds to hold their hands up and admit that they haven't been good enough.
Not many will disagree that they have been punching above their weight this term.
Even fewer will dispel the notion that this season has come too soon for them to challenge for the title. But there shouldn't be any shame in trying.
Liverpool got to where they are this season playing a brand of attacking football that draws praise when they win and therefore rightfully attracts criticism when they lose.
Now's the time to cop the flak.
Rodgers and his men must learn from these harsh but valuable lessons to make it worth the pain.
You look at Suarez and you think you feel sorry for him, but you can’t feel sorry for Liverpool in that situation. That (defence) has been their Achilles’ heel all season. Even when they’ve been winning games, it’s been 4-3 or 6-3 or 3-2. We always felt the defence would come back and haunt them with the goals they’ve conceded.
— Jamie Carragher has no sympathy for his former club after their defensive collapse at Crystal Palace
It was in Liverpool’s hands but, in the last four league games, they’ve conceded nine goals. That is not the form of champions.
— TNP analyst Ray Houghton