Never in doubt.
A wet and windy morning in South London, although things had improved by kick off, and a lot of bluster when the decision to rest Salah was unveiled this morning… especially with the rumours online yesterday evening. Someone keeps leaking the team… I blame Andrew Lewer.
Matip returned to partner Fabinho at the heart of the defence, having clearly recovered from his back spasms; Baby came into the midfield, which was a tad harsh on young Jones, who has been very impressive of late.
Three minutes in and the Taki doubters were made to eat humble sushi, as the forward slammed the ball emphatically into the far corner from Sadio’s assist. An early lead for the Tricky Reds, then, but Palace came back to earn a draw against the Spuds recently so nothing should have been taken for granted.
Zaha forced Fabinho into a timely intervention; Matip made a good clearance; Fab cleared again when Ayew looked set to tap in. Palace showed a lot of spirit and should have scored in the 23rd minute but Ayew’s cut back was behind an unmarked Zaha ; it could easily have been one-all.
Palace paid for their profligacy as Sadio doubled our lead in the 36th minute; the speed of his feet as he outmanoeuvred Clyne then whipped the ball past Guaita was mesmerising. A brilliant finish from a brilliant player.
A stunning Reds counter attack saw Robertson curl the ball into Firmino- another top class finish and it was 3-0. Palace certainly didn’t deserve to be three behind on the balance of play but, as the old saying goes, you have to take your chances.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, the only word running through my mind was “Crystanbul” but the Reds are made of sterner stuff these days and such a capitulation seemed unlikely.
Yet another world class finish saw the visitors extend their lead even further early in the second half, with Trent setting up the captain to sweep home with aplomb from just outside the box. Outstanding again.
Mané and Minamino both spurned presentable chances before Sadio made way for Salah as the hour mark approached. His stroppy reaction will give the tabloids plenty to talk about, seeing that they won’t want to focus on the actual scoreline.
Trent released Salah at the three-quarters mark; the Egyptian fed Firmino and he scored. The delightful dinked finish from Bobby made it five top class goals for the Reds today.
Gini got a well-deserved rest, being replaced by Curtis with twenty minutes to play; Bobby was denied the opportunity to seal an away day hat trick when he was replaced by Ox five minutes later. Salah made it six with a simple finish after Matip nodded down Trent’s corner, with Mo heading in his 15th goal of the season from close range.
Mo then scored another worldie, curling into the top corner from the inside right channel, beating Van Aanholt all ends up and leaving Guaita stranded. In a game packed with outstanding finishes, this was probably the pick of them.
Next up is a massive eight day break until we entertain West Brom at Anfield. The Baggies will be bouncing under their new manager (although that would be physically impossible if they were literally under him) but we should have too much for them. Still, we have a six point lead now (should be ten, mind!) and it’s up to our supposed challengers to try to claw back the deficit.
MOTM: Jonathan Carthew of Black Mountains Smokery in Crickhowell. I made an early start on the smoked salmon ‘er indoors ordered for Christmas; this stuff has won loads of awards and I can see why. It’s totally different class to any supermarket salmon- and that includes both Waitrose and M&S- and I highly recommend it to anyone. Washed down with a glass or two of Nyetimber- delicious.