Liverpool title hopes crumble in 3-3 tie at Palace
LONDON (AP) — Luis Suarez dropped into a crouch after the final whistle and sobbed, his chest heaving, until Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard walked over, pulled him up and tried to console him.
The star forward pulled his jersey over his face, not wanting the world to see, and Gerrard tried to wave off a television cameraman.
That elusive 19th title, so close eight days earlier, was now so far away.
Liverpool wasted a three-goal lead in the final 16 minutes, crushing its Premier League title hopes with a 3-3 tie at Crystal Palace on Monday night that put Manchester City in prime position to win its second championship in three seasons.
“We needed to win tonight, so I think Manchester City will go on to win the two games,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers said. “They’ll be champions.”
Liverpool (25-6-6) has 81 points going into Sunday’s finale at home against Newcastle. City (25-6-5), one point back in second place, hosts Aston Villa on Wednesday and West Ham on Sunday.
Liverpool, which last won the league in 1990, built a 3-0 lead by the 55th minute on goals by Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Suarez, who tied the Premier League record of 31 goals in a 38-game season.
But Palace rallied in stunning fashion. Damian Delaney scored in the 79th minute on 25-yard left-footed shot that deflected off a leg of defender Glen Johnson and left goalkeeper Simon Mignolet no chance to stop it.
Two minutes later, Yannick Bolasie picked up the ball just outside his own penalty area, made a 70-yard dash down the left flank and squared the ball to an unmarked Dwight Gayle. He beat Mignolet with a right-footed shot just inside the far post from about 12 yards.
Then Joe Ward’s long pass from the midfield stripe was met in the 88th by Glenn Murray. He chested the ball into the path of an unrushing Gayle, who slotted home from near the penalty spot. Palace (13-19-5), just 11th in the 20-team league, then held on through five minutes of stoppage time.
“At 3-0 you’re staring down the barrel. When we got the first goal I actually thought we’d have a squeak,” Palace coach Tony Pulis said. “Then the support, everything, took off. It was amazing.”
Liverpool was in control of the title race before a 2-0 home loss to Chelsea on April 27. Entering Monday, the Reds needed either to win their final two games and have City drop points in at least one match, or overcome a goal difference of nine if both contenders won all their matches.
“We maybe thought we could play ‘Roy of the Rovers’ football and make up the goal difference,” Rogers said, referring to a British soccer comic strip famed for depicting swashbuckling play.
Suarez tied the 38-game season goals record set by Blackburn’s Alan Shearer in 1995-96 and matched by Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007-08. The overall record of 34 was set in a 42-game season and is shared by Newcastle’s Andy Cole (1993-94) and Shearer (1994-95).
“For 75 minutes it was an outstanding performance. It was real poor defending, is what cost us there,” Rogers said. “Maybe we just got carried away.”