Once upon a time… before Brendan Rodgers became the best manager in Scotland and when Luis Suarez terrorized the EPL, Liverpool were within reach of their first league title since 1990. It was match game 37 and Liverpool vs Crystal Palace didn’t appear to be anything less than a cakewalk for Liverpool. They were tied with Manchester City at the top of the table. A victory for Liverpool meant that Manchester City would have to win their game in hand and have the last game of the season decide the winner. Liverpool had the best striker in the league and had been rolling all season. Could it finally be their year? Would Gerrard finally lift that EPL trophy he had been missing?
Liverpool travelled to Crystal Palace expecting little to no competition. Palace had been battling relegation for most of the season and Liverpool fans came in a tad bit cocky.
Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 9
Suarez 4', 28', 79
Sturridge 14', 52
Gerrard 45', 48 (pens)
— DivonkeyOrigi (@PacinoKid) May 4, 2014
I don't want it to sound like I'm overreacting here, but I have a feeling that Liverpool are going to score a hundred billion goals tomorrow
— Si (@PhantomGoal) May 4, 2014
The game started perfectly for the visitors when Allen headed in a Steven Gerrard corner kick in the 18th minute. He found himself inexplicably unmarked in the far post and headered the ball perfectly into the back of the net. Perfect ball perfect finish. Crystal Palace’s man-marking was as horrible as Liverpool’s kit that day.
The first half concluded 1-0 for the league leaders at the time. Just minutes after the restart, Liverpool started knocking on Palace’s door once more. Daniel Sturridge tried to bend one in at the far corner but was denied by the post. Luis Suarez then missed the rebound and the score remained 1-0 for the visitors.
Less than three minutes later, Liverpool doubled their lead thanks to a strike by Daniel Sturridge and a very fortunate deflection. Sturridge’s original attempt was deflected by defender Damien Delaney and squirted past the paralyzed keeper. 2-0 with just under 45 minutes to play. Surely they’d add to their lead. Surely they had won the game…
In the 55th minute, Liverpool added their third. Who else? It had to be. The best player in the league got on the scoresheet and put the game away. After a nice combination on the wing, Suarez received the ball unmarked just outside the 6-yard-box and well… we know how that ends. 3-0 with 35 minutes to play. Game over…right?
Coaches everywhere agree that a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer. It plays with your mind and makes you think that you are in control of the game and nothing will happen. Even if you give up a goal, you can react and prevent that second goal. In reality, a 2-0 gives you just enough cockyness which causes you to relax and leave your guard down. If the other team scores, they suddenly pick up the momentum and the 2-2 suddenly becomes way more probable than a 3-1. But in this case for Liverpool, there was nothing to worry about. A 3-0 is not a 2-0. It’s more safe I mean, who blows a 3-0 lead..
Fast Forward to the 79th minute. Liverpool still has the 3-0 advantage with just over 10 minutes to play. Their eyes already on the last game of the season where they will play for the title. While Rodgers and his men begin to change the chapter, Delaney decides to make up for his own goal earlier in the half and scores a screamer. His long range shot drills the net behind Mignolet and cuts it back to 3-1 with 10 minutes to play. Even the Place players didn’t seem to think too much of the goal as they just began jogging back to their own half. At least 3-1 doesn’t look as bad.
79' GOOOOOOOL CRYSTAL PALACE! Gol de Delaney! Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool #EPL
— #BenditaPremier (@EPL_es) May 5, 2014
Two minutes later, Palace continued attacking and found Liverpool’s backline exposed. Bolasie received the ball on the right flank unmarked and whipped in a cross that was met by Gayle who pushed it home one touch. Two goals in less than three minutes and suddenly we had a game in our hands.
With two minutes to play, Liverpool fans worldwide were sweating a little bit more than they expected in the 60th minute. All they had to do was hang on for two more minutes and then whatever was going to be added and the game would fade into just a memory. Two minutes away from a huge step towards the title. In a blink of an eye, it happened.
Horrible defending by Liverpool allowed Crystal Palace to break their defense wide open with just two passes. A great chipped ball from the back, a perfect flick and a great control by Gayle again. Gayle found himself 1v1 with Mignolet and finished as cool as a cucumber sending Selhurst Park into an absolute mayhem.
The whistle blew a couple of seconds after Gayle’s brace and just like that, Liverpool’s title aspirations were gone. They had their own fate in their hands and it got snatched in front of their very eyes. Their inability to focus when needed had not just cost them the game but also the league. As Gerrard and Suarez broke down in tears, Man City praised the soccer Gods for the miracle that handed them the league title. Three goals in ten minutes. Just like that, an otherwise memorable campaign by Liverpool went to waste.
Liverpool have yet to recover from that catastrophe. Suarez went to Barcelona that same summer and despite the emergence of several key players, the team never reached that level again. Klopp’s Liverpool has shown signs of potential but their inconsistency, much like in 2014, has cost them the title. They now compete for 4th place and a spot in the Champions League. In a span of three years, they went from title contenders to a Champions League-aspiring team. How different would their story had been if they would’ve hung on to that 3-0 lead? Guess we’ll never know. All we remember is that May 6th when they practically handed Manchester City their second title in three years.