Liverpool notched up a win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Valentine's Day for the first time since 1997. Love was certainly in the air as the travelling Kop celebrated goals from Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana. Despite concerted efforts from the Eagles they didn't quite have enough in the tank to throw Liverpool off course.
With several injuries to cater for Brendan Rodgers was forced to select a slightly different team but it was always going to be Daniel Sturridge playing up top. Mario Balotelli was forced to settle for a place on the bench.
Things got off to a bad start for the Reds after Crystal Palace found the back of the net in just 15 minutes. The goal came after a sloppy defensive decision from the Reds when Martin Skrtel was forced to attempt a headed clearance whilst being pressured by Dwight Gayle. Unfortunately Skrtel couldn't get enough on the clearance, which allowed Gayle to produce a headed shot, Simon Mignolet saved well but the ball fell to Frazier Campbell who finished confidently to put Palace ahead.
As the first half continued Liverpool created chances via the likes of Lallana, Sturridge and even Joe Allen but the Reds could not find the back of the net. Whilst Palace were in the lead their meaningful attacks were few and far between however when they did get in the box they created real problems for Liverpool who had to ensure they kept themselves in the game.
Dwight Gayle as always was at the forefront of the Crystal Palace attack but he was also trying to make a name for himself as an actor on Saturday. A dive that led to Jordan Henderson receiving a yellow card was bad enough but he would later miraculously fall over again and almost get Daniel Sturridge into trouble.
As the second half started both sides made immediate substitutions with Liverpool introducing Mario Balotelli and Palace bringing on Puncheon.
Liverpool had struggled in the first half to break through the centre of the pitch and this was perhaps made more difficult with just a lone striker to aim for or pair with. I was of course happy to see Balotelli enter play and hoped that two up front would combat some of our earlier difficulties in the game.
At 50 minutes the Reds had found a way through. An assist from Jordan Henderson left Sturridge with the perfect chance to convert and with a lovely finish the striker levelled the game for the Reds. Its always fantastic to see Sturridge score and even more so when he's just coming back from injury. His traditional dancing celebration was hilariously attempted by Moreno too as the Liverpool fans at Selhurst Park celebrated.
The goal for Liverpool appeared to fluster Palace who took their foot off the gas and seemed more concerned with protecting the current scoreline than being too ballsy in attack. You had to wonder how long this defensive turn would last and whether it was a dangerous option for the home side. It turned out to be just that.
Just before the hour mark Mario Balotelli won Liverpool a free kick just outside the box. I've probably said this before but this is yet another positive about Balotelli that people often forget. Balotelli is always a target for the opposition, defenders cannot stand him, their focus is pinned on him, they want to bully him and piss him off.
Not only does this mean you will end up with fouls won in dangerous areas but also it detracts the attention from Sturridge or whoever the other forward may be meaning they can cause even more damage. I honestly think given the chance Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge could form a pretty good partnership.
After winning the foul Mario Balotelli stepped up for the free kick. Those who followed him in his time in Italy will know he is prone to scoring some quality free kicks however on Saturday he went for a low powerful drive. His shot though caused enough havoc and as it was parried out by Speroni there was Adam Lallana to follow up and score the winner for the Reds!
Criticised in the week for not showing any emotion Mario had a beaming smile after setting up this one and Adam Lallana was chuffed. It was brilliant to see.
As the second half eventually drew to a close both sides attacking flair petered out and it was Brendan Rodgers who was able to walk away knowing his team's name would be in the hat for the quarter finals.
I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweets I received:
@LFCKirstyLFC #LFC #Blog as arrogant as last year when we go behind, believe in ourselves ability to come back.
— Dave P (@Sarkies_Proxy) February 14, 2015
@LFCKirstyLFC ref was a joke again , glad we now have fighting spirit to grind out results #YNWA
— muchos crabbyarse (@plumbsackcity) February 14, 2015
@LFCKirstyLFC Moreno did the Sturridge. It was awesome.
— Farewell Stevie (@PoeticRex) February 14, 2015
Next up for Liverpool is Besiktas in the Europa League.