Liverpool earned an efficient but rather flattering 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in their Premier League clash at Selhurst Park on Monday evening, courtesy of goals from James Milner and Sadio Mane.
Although the Reds had the lion's share of possession in the first half, they struggled to carve open the Eagles' highly disciplined defence. In fact, the hosts came within inches of taking the lead, as Andros Townsend was desperately unlucky to see his superb strike hit the woodwork.
Nevertheless, Liverpool edged ahead shortly before half time, as Milner converted a penalty after Mamadou Sakho was controversially adjudged to have fouled Mohamed Salah.
Palace put the Reds under pressure after the break, with Alisson saving well from a Luka Milivojevic free kick, but Naby Keita also missed a presentable chance to double Liverpool's lead.
Late in the second half, Salah was once again at the heart of an unpopular decision, as right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka was harshly dismissed for allegedly denying the Egyptian a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Palace still battled gamely, and an excellent cross from Zaha deserved to create a goal. Unfortunately for the home side, it didn't, and Sadio Mane killed off the home side's hopes in added time, finishing with aplomb after a rapid Liverpool counterattack.
Key Talking Point
Palace manager Roy Hodgson will likely be bitterly disappointed with two significant decisions which went against his side - the penalty against Sakho and the dismissal of Wan-Bissaka. Those contentious moments gave the visitors a decisive advantage in what was generally a tight battle.
Nevertheless, Hodgson will surely be pleased with an organised and spirited display by his side. Against weaker opponents than Liverpool - and with a little more luck - the Eagles could easily have won.
Starting XI: Hennessy (7), Wan-Bissaka (7), Tomkins (7), Sakho (6), van Aanholt (7), Townsend (7), Milivojevic (6), McArthur (6), Schlupp (6), Benteke (4), Zaha (8).
Substitutes: Ward (N/A), Meyer (N/A), Sorloth (N/A). They all came on too late to have much chance of making an impact.
If he hadn't been sent off for a rash challenge on Salah, right back Wan-Bissaka would have been a strong candidate for this accolade. Strong, fast, assured on the ball and a frequent threat going forward, he will most likely be a great asset for Palace this season.
Ultimately, however, this award has to go to the tireless Wilfried Zaha, who was at the heart of much of his side's promising work. If he'd had better forwards alongside him, the Ivorian's fine cross in the second half would likely have set up Palace's equaliser.
The Eagles should thank their lucky stars that they've persuaded him to stay at Selhurst Park (for now). Here's what some fans had to say about him.
How good is Zaha though 😫— njbainz (@7he_One) August 20, 2018
Id love zaha at liverpool i cant lie— Farda Shell (@hitmansonline) August 20, 2018
Thought Zaha was good tonight— WillTheGooner (@WillTheGooner) August 20, 2018
Sadly, Christian Benteke had yet another game to forget for the Eagles. The Belgian showed willingness and industry but precious little threat in the final third, as he was neutralised with almost embarrassing ease by Virgil van Dijk.
His poor performance was all the more marked because none of his teammates had a noticeably bad game.
Key Talking Point
If Reds fans were hoping for another bravura display after their scintillating 4-0 win over West Ham, they must have been disappointed by their side's showing at Selhurst Park. At best, Klopp's side were competent but predictable.
That standard of performance certainly won't be sufficient against Liverpool's title rivals.
On the other hand, Monday's clash at Selhurst Park was exactly the kind of encounter where Klopp's charges have dropped points in the past. So, in a sense, this win was arguably a promising and important result for the Reds.
Starting XI: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (6), Gomez (7), van Dijk (9*), Robertson (6), Milner (7), Wijnaldum (6), Keita (7), Salah (6), Firmino (4), Mane (6).
Substitutes: Henderson (6), Lallana (N/A), Sturridge (N/A).
He may not have been up against the most fearsome strike force in the Premier League, but Liverpool centre back Virgil van Dijk was immense, winning almost everything in the air and containing Christian Benteke with ease.
In addition, Keita made some excellent runs and passes, although he was badly at fault in the buildup to Townsend's shot against the woodwork.
Here's how fans reacted to van Dijk's defensive masterclass on social media.
Few Liverpool players covered themselves in glory at Selhurst Park, but their front three were all a long way short of their lethal best - even though Salah won a penalty and Mane finished well at the end.
Arguably the most underwhelming Liverpool forward was Roberto Firmino, who made surprisingly little impact on the game. Palace deserve great credit for generally nullifying his threat.
Crystal Palace face a tricky trip to Watford on Sunday, as the Hornets have convincingly won their first two Premier League matches. Nevertheless, if the Eagles show the spirit and discipline which they displayed on Monday, they will at least give a good account of themselves.
Meanwhile, Liverpool will be buoyed by the way in which they won a potentially tricky away match without playing especially well. Klopp's charges will expect to continue their winning run against Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield on Saturday, despite the Seagulls' superb win over Manchester United last weekend.