Dwight Gayle scored two second-half goals to earn Crystal Palace a dramatic 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park and leave Liverpool’s title dreams in tatters.
Brendan Rodgers’ side went into the match knowing that anything other than a win would severely dent their title hopes, and it all looked to be going to plan as the visitors took the lead less than 20 minutes into the match in the most unlikely fashion.
Facing a side who hadn’t conceded a set-piece in the league under Tony Pulis all season, Joe Allen shocked the home crowd by heading home Steven Gerrard’s corner to notch his first goal in a Liverpool shirt.
The visitors’ good fortune improved following the break as they doubled their lead – Daniel Sturridge’s shot deflecting off Damien Delaney and past the helpless Julian Speroni.
Sensing blood and looking to reduce Manchester City’s superior goal difference, Liverpool continued to throw men forward and added a third just two minutes later. Exchanging a neat one-two with Raheem Sterling, Suarez continued into the box, receiving the return ball to fire past Speroni and net his 31st goal of the season – the joint-highest tally ever in a 38-game Premier League season.
But with just over 10 minutes remaining, Liverpool’s season fell apart as Palace netted three in quick succession. The unfortunate Delaney, who had earlier contributed to Liverpool’s second, enjoyed a slice of luck as his speculative 25-yard drive ricocheted off Glen Johnson before flying into the top left-hand corner.
The goal appeared to rock the visitors and spur Palace on, as Gayle first converted Yannick Bolasie’s clever centre before taking advantage of some slack Liverpool defending to score a dramatic late equaliser and all-but end Liverpool’s hopes of claiming a first league title in 24 years.
They now lead City by a point, but have one game remaining to City's two.
8’ - MUST SCORE!! Sakho should have Liverpool a goal to the good, as he finds space – somehow – on the edge of the six-yard box from the corner. The defender is totally unmarked, but inexplicably heads wide
18’ - GOAL!!! Joe Allen scores his first goal for Liverpool. Gerrard's corner from the left is sent over the crowd and towards the far post, where the unmarked Allen has the simplest of tasks to nod past Speroni. Terrible defending, but Liverpool won't care.
33’ – MIGNOLET SAVE: Great effort from Puncheon, who smashes a left-footed effort through a crowd of bodies from 25 yards. Mignolet is unsighted, but is down in a flash to turn the ball around his post with a firm hand. Brilliant effort, better save.
35’ - WHAT A SAVE FROM MIGNOLET!! Jedinak, unmarked, sets his sights from a little under 30 yards. His right-footed drive is vicious – dipping and swerving on its way into the top corner. But Mignolet flies through the air, getting a fingertip to the ball and diverting it over the crossbar.
42’ – SUAREZ ALMOST NETS! Suarez looks to catch out Speroni at his near post after being sent through on goal. The Uruguayan’s first touch is a poor one, but he manages to keep the ball in play on the left touchline. There are a number of Liverpool players in the penalty area, but Suarez smashes a shot towards the near post that Speroni has to be alert to save.
53’ – LIVERPOOL’S SECOND! Liverpool add their second and it’ll give them a little bit of breathing room to go on and get more – looking to draw level with City. It’s Sturridge that scores, but it’s very fortunate. His shot from 20 yards takes a wicked deflection off Delaney and into the back of the net.
55’ – LIVERPOOL NET THREE! The Reds smell blood. Suarez receives the ball 30 yards from goal and bursts forward, exchanging a one-two with Sterling, before carrying on his run and slotting past the onrushing Speroni from eight yards.
79’ – PALACE PULL ONE BACK! Delaney finds some space 25 yards from goal, and, under no pressure at all, opts to fire at goal. His shot takes a massive deflection off Johnson and past Mignolet.
81’ – LIVERPOOL CONCEDE AGAIN! Palace score a second in as many minutes. Following a break down in Liverpool’s attack, Bolasie breaks and is most certainly the right man to do so. He knocks the ball ahead of him, storming past every Liverpool player to reach the penalty area. He holds the ball up well before finding Gayle, who side-foots past Mignolet from the penalty spot.
89’ – IT’S ALL LEVEL!! Liverpool have blown a three goal lead, and could well have blown their title hopes. Gayle scores his second of the match after splitting Skrtel and Sakho to rifle past Mignolet from close range.
Tony Pulis remains unbeaten at home to Liverpool in the Premier League (W3-D3), while both teams avoid back-to-back Premier League losses for only the second time under their current managers. Liverpool, however, remain unbeaten for the ninth PL away match in a row, for the first time since April – October 2008.
Dwight Gayle becomes just the third player to score more than once against Liverpool in a single PL match this season (Romelu Lukaku and Jordan Mutch also scored twice against them).
This is the first time ever Palace have recovered from a three-goal deficit in the PL, previous best was two goals vs Norwich in April 2005 (that match also ended 3-3).
Have Liverpool blown their chance to win the league? The Reds move top of the table by just one point, but Manchester City have a game in hand and face Aston Villa and West Ham in their final two games of the season. A first league title in 24 years is still possible, but hugely unlikely.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace): It has to be, doesn’t it? Scoring two goals in eight second-half minutes to rescue a dramatic 3-3 draw and effectively end Liverpool’s title hopes is worthy of the gong. Yannick Bolasie was also tremendous, but this award is Gayle’s.
Crystal Palace: Speroni 7, Mariappa 6, Dann 6, Delaney 7, Ward 6, Dikgacoi 6, Jedinak 6, Ledley 6, Bolasie 8, Puncheon 6, Chamakh 6. Subs: Ince 5, Gayle 9, Murray 6
Liverpool: Mignolet 7, Johnson 6, Flanagan 6, Skrtel 7, Sakho 6, Gerrard 6, Allen 7, Lucas 7, Sterling 7, Sturridge 6, Suarez 7. Subs: Coutinho 5, Moses 5