How utterly cruel this was on 10-man Crystal Palace.
The Eagles came out against Liverpool fired up and firing, desperate to secure their first win in five games and ease the pressure for results that currently hangs over the head of manager Roy Hodgson.
The 76-year-old admitted on Friday that he was “fearful” his team would not be able to beat Liverpool. And while that proved the case — with Harvey Elliott netting a stunning injury-time winner — Palace came so close to securing a famous result here.
10 yellow cards were handed out by referee Andy Madley during an ill-tempered affair in which Jordan Ayew got sent off in the second half for a second booking but was cheered off by the home fans, with Palace leading 1-0 at the time.
That lead came in the second half, but it could have come earlier when Jefferson Lerma had a close-range shot tipped against the post by the returning Alisson, or when Madley very harshly overturned his original decision to award the hosts a penalty on the grounds that Will Hughes had fouled Wataru Endo in the build-up.
It was after the break that the out-of-form hosts did manage to find the breakthrough — Madley stopping play to check the monitor and this time awarding a penalty for Jarell Quansah’s sharp kick on half-time substitute Jean-Philippe Mateta.
Mateta may leave the club in January due to limited game time and struggles in front of goal in a Palace shirt. Yet it was he who stepped up and calmly slotted the spot-kick to give Palace a shock lead, but one they probably deserved.
The defining moment of this match was not a goal but the foul Ayew made on Elliott to stop a counter-attack in the 75th minute. Madley felt he had no choice but to brandish a second yellow to Ayew, who was cheered loudly by the Palace fans as he made his way to the tunnel. He, and his team, had played so courageously.
But Ayew had not even reached the dressing room by the time Mohamed Salah had scored his 200th Liverpool goal and his 150th in the Premier League via a sizeable deflection off former Reds full-back Nathaniel Clyne. The complexion of the game had changed in an instant.
Palace goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was replaced by Remi Matthews late on after going down with a calf injury, and Matthews’s main involvement in the match was picking the ball out of his net after Elliott had cantered forward and sent it flying past him for a late Liverpool winner.
Liverpool go top. Palace wonder how they lost it.