Liverpool trash Crystal Palace 4-0

Fabinho scores for Liverpool
Fabinho scores for Liverpool

WITH lockdown restrictions still in place, they will not be able to stage a Jamie Vardy-style house party to celebrate their title.

But whether Liverpool’s players get together in smaller groups, or on a Zoom call, tonight could well be the night.

If Manchester City fail to defeat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, then Liverpool will officially be back on their perch again after 30 long years.

Following a barely-relevant blip which stretched across the coronavirus crisis, Jurgen Klopp’s men were back in their mighty stride at Anfield last night.

The goals – from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mo Salah, Fabinho and Sadio Mane – were all absolute corkers.

Two long-range spectaculars and two sweetly-constructed team efforts.

Liverpool have not even dropped a Premier League point at their fortress in 17 months – and even when the stronghold is emptied of supporters, it makes no difference.

These were never going to be ideal times in which to celebrate – with The Kop empty and Gerry Marsden singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” alone.

And while players would prepare to clinch a title on the pitch, plenty of champions have sealed the deal while inactive – including Vardy and his Leicester pals four years ago, when their rivals Tottenham were held at Chelsea.

Anyway, a title so long-awaited could never feel flat – even when the fates have conspired against immediate mass congregations and open-top bus parades.

Should City win tonight, then Liverpool must go to the home of the champions next Thursday and look for the single point they now need to dethrone them.

If not, then it will surely come against Aston Villa at home the following Sunday – and at least the boozers will be open by then.

Palace arrived here on the back of four straight wins but after their talisman, Wilf Zaha, pulled up lame early on, they were toothless.

And Liverpool were back towards their irresistible best – harrying, bullying and swarming their opponent.

Hurrying to get their job done, yet still producing moments to sit back and savour at your leisure.

Liverpool had been fortunate to escape with a point from Sunday’s derby at Everton but with Salah and Andy Robertson back to full fitness and restored to the starting line-up, this was Klopp’s A team.

Even a side as dynamic and remorseless as this could not go through an entire season without a bump in the road – they had managed only two wins, both unconvincing, in their previous seven outings.

With their lead at the top so towering, this has hardly been a case of heart palpitations with the finishing line in sight.

But their squad is not as deep as City’s – then again, whose is? – and the disappointing draw at Goodison showed that even Liverpool can sorely miss a couple of key players.

Palace had been the last team to defeat Liverpool at Anfield in the league – under Sam Allardyce, more than three years ago.

Hodgson’s own tenure as Reds boss was miserable and short-lived, played out in the dog days of the hated Hicks and Gillett ownership a decade ago.

Yet the 72-year-old has restated his credentials again, at his boyhood club, and arrived with hopes of leading Palace to their first-ever taste of major European competition.

Palace had flown up in the afternoon but arrived in a fleet of 20 people-carriers, which were ferrying them back to the capital straight after a game they will quickly wish to forget.

Predictably, Hodgson’s men looked to defend deep – but as soon as the eighth minute, chaos broke out in their ranks and Gini Wijnaldum lashed one wide when he ought to have scored.

Then Jordan Henderson volleyed into an empty row Z before Palace suffered that significant blow as Zaha, their chief counter-attacking threat, was forced to limp off in the 15th minute.

And midway through the half, after a clumsy challenge from Jordan Ayew on Virgil Van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold bent home a sumptuous free-kick from 25 yards.

Then, when Wayne Hennessey flapped at a Robertson free-kick, Henderson crashed a shot against the post, with Wijnaldum soon steering a shot wide.

Before half-time, it was two – a lofted pass from Fabinho, a chest-down, a cut inside and side-footed finish from Salah.

It was a typical blink-and-you-miss it Liverpool goal – and miss it left-back Patrick Van Aanholt did.

It was Liverpool’s 100th goal of the season in all competitions – and this insatiable side had the appetite for more.

The 101st was a belter from Fabinho, who let rip from 30 yards and heard it ping satisfyingly against the stanchion of the Kop end goal – one minor benefit of the behind-closed-doors experience.

Then it was Liverpool’s old one-two-three – Roberto Firmino feeding Salah, who split open the Palace defence as if armed with a lancet, allowing the third musketeer, Mane, to roll it into the far corner.

Now it is over to Chelsea – the club who robbed Brendan Rodgers’ team of the title by winning at Anfield when Steven Gerrard slipped six years ago.

They do not have much affection for the Blues at Anfield, but they will hope for a favour tonight.

The wait has lasted long enough. Not much longer now.

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