Christian Benteke brace sends Eagles soaring to safety against wasteful Liverpool
CHRISTIAN BENTEKE RETURNED to haunt Liverpool with a double as Crystal Palace took another huge step towards securing Premier League safety with a 2-1 win at Anfield.
Sam Allardyce’s men looked to be in real trouble in February, but their triumph on Merseyside added to similarly impressive wins against Chelsea and Arsenal, taking them seven points clear of the bottom three.
Liverpool were by no means at their fluid best in the first half and it ended up being an act of individual brilliance which gave them the lead, Philippe Coutinho’s stunning free-kick giving Wayne Hennessey little chance.
Benteke continued his habit of scoring against the Reds just before the break, though, slamming into the roof of the net to convert for the fourth time in his last three Anfield visits as an opposition player.
Liverpool were no less dominant after the break and created chances more frequently, with Coutinho particularly prominent.
But their profligacy proved their undoing and Palace punished them, with Benteke providing Jurgen Klopp a costly reminder of his talents with the winning goal 16 minutes from time, giving Allardyce’s side a huge boost and leaving Liverpool’s top four hopes a little less certain.
Liverpool were on top from the start and dominated the early exchanges, but chances were difficult to come by against a compact Palace defence.
Palace were first to go close, with Benteke powering past a couple of challenges and caressing a 20-yard effort just wide of the bottom-right corner 21 minutes in.
It ultimately took a moment of magic three minutes later for Liverpool to break Palace’s resolve, Coutinho bending a sumptuous 30-yard free-kick over the wall and into the left side of the goal.
Emre Can should have added a second, but the German – teed up by Georginio Wijnaldum 12 yards out – inexplicably scuffed a first-time effort so badly that it almost hit the corner flag.
Palace made the most of that let-off. Yohan Cabaye laid the ball on a plate for Benteke and the Belgian smashed home from close range.
The hosts began the second period with renewed focus and the terrific Coutinho went close to a second early on, seeing his eight-yard effort brilliantly blocked by James Tomkins.
Coutinho threatened again in the 56th minute, arriving late in the area to meet Nathaniel Clyne’s cross with a fierce header which was deflected into Hennessey’s hands.
Palace took encouragement from Liverpool’s wastefulness and Benteke made sure they were made to rue their misses, diving to meet Jason Puncheon’s delivery with a header from the six-yard box.
Liverpool remain third with a three-point advantage over fifth-placed Manchester United – 2-0 winners at Burnley earlier on Sunday – who have two games in hand, one of which is against Manchester City who sit third.
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