SCST 2022: Liverpool earn a routine win over Crystal Palace

It may not have been a Premier League classic, but the Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy 2022 gave fans much to cheer about throughout the night as Liverpool eased to a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the National Stadium. 

For over two hours, the National Stadium became Anfield Far East as fans belted out classic Liverpool anthems like You’ll Never Walk Alone and newer ones like Dua Lipa’s One Kiss — adopted unofficially by the players to reign in their success. It certainly has been a long time coming for them, considering Liverpool last visited our shores in 2009, more than a decade ago. 

Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy Match Day: Liverpool fans
Reds fans filled the stadium to support the club

While the stadium was unsurprisingly packed with Liverpool fans, a small section of Crystal Palace fans showcased their support for the club at the stadium’s east end. They too, were part of the overall festivities, joining in for the iconic Kallang Wave during the match. With the 50,217-strong crowd, it was a proper football atmosphere.

As fans were soaking it all in, the team news came in. Liverpool’s starting eleven for the game didn’t have all their usual starters, but it was still a strong line-up. The likes of Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino were expected to produce their magic, while this was also the chance for fringe players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones to prove their worth in front of the fans.

Meanwhile, Crystal Palace named a very experienced eleven from the start. The trio of Odsonne Édouard, Jean-Philippe Mateta, and Jordan Ayew would lead the line against Liverpool, while Joel Ward and Joachim Andersen anchored the defence alongside starting goalkeeper Vicente Guaita — it was probably the strongest line-up they could have made with the squad they had.

Liverpool controlled the game from the get-go, but it was Palace who had the first real chance of the game. After a foul around the top-right side of Liverpool’s final third, Luka Milivojević floated his free kick onto the head of Édouard, who angled his header towards the bottom corner. Unfortunately, the header lacked power and Liverpool goalkeeper Adrián could gather the ball easily.

Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy Match Day: Odsonne Édouard
Odsonne Édouard unhappy with his effort on the goal

That didn’t faze them. Liverpool continued to create chances, with Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino both causing trouble around the left side, one of them leading to a half chance in the 10th minute for Jones, who tried to squeeze the ball past Guaita’s near post. 

But it was actually the right side which made a telling contribution. The corner that followed was cleared but recycled all the way back to James Milner, who then speared the ball over to defender Joël Matip in the penalty box. Matip dummied the pass to youngster Harvey Elliot, who duly pulled back the ball for captain Jordan Henderson to thump it across the goalkeeper into the net — the National Stadium roared with delight.

Elliot was a bright spark throughout the first half, constantly making runs as The Reds looked to extend the lead. He very nearly did so himself in the 36th minute. Milner went marauding up the field from the right-back position and delivered the ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain at the edge of the box, who chipped the ball to the new number 19. Elliot beat the defence but could not beat the keeper, slicing the ball away from the target.

Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy Match Day: Liverpool Harvey Elliot
Harvey Elliot caused much trouble for Crystal Palace on the right-hand side

Almost straight away, Crystal Palace nearly equalised. A throw-in was not dealt with and found its way to Édouard, who played the ball to his forward partner Mateta. Mateta broke through the defence and held off left-back Kostas Tsimikas, who was rushing back. However, the Greek defender’s presence was enough to put off the striker, and he skied the ball; a big chance missed. 

One more chance came Liverpool’s way. Firmino played a beautiful pass to a darting Oxlade-Chamberlain to set up a grandstand finish to the first half. But unfortunately, his shot was straight at Guaita. It also signalled the end for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s game; he injured himself amid that chance and had to be substituted.

Wholesale changes were made to the Liverpool side come the second half. In came the big guns — Virgil Van Dijk, Thiago, Trent Alexander-Arnold, new boys Darwin Núñez and Fabio Carvalho, and of course the main man himself, Mohamed Salah.

No surprise then that he immediately made an impact. Salah was fed the ball out on the right, and after playing a one-two with Alexander-Arnold, his curled finish hit Crystal Palace’s Andersen, and wrong-footed the keeper as it went into the net. So quickly did Salah get the goal; the stadium announcer hadn’t even read his name out yet. The Liverpool fans were more than happy to hear it twice.

Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy Match Day: Salah Goal
Joachim Andersen unluckily deflects in Salah’s shot

It was an onslaught at the right-hand side. Three minutes later, Thiago pinged a ball to Salah, who deftly controlled and took it across the byline before squaring it to strike partner Núñez. Núñez’s powerful shot however lacked direction, and the goalkeeper was able to parry it away from goal. Almost the first contribution of the new partnership.

Crystal Palace was more laboured this half. Their only telling chance came in the 52nd minute when Mateta was able to cross a ball into Liverpool’s box and find Ayew. His rasping half-volley was heading into the top corner, but Andrew Robertson managed to get a block in. It would be the starting front-line’s last chance before all were substituted in the 66th and 74th minute. 

Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy Match Day: Crystal Palace Mateta
Mateta made some big chances for Palace, but was unable to convert them before his substitution

More chances came from Liverpool. Shots from Alexander-Arnold and Núñez were relatively tame and easy for Guaita to handle. Carvalho however, gave the keeper his biggest save. Coming in from the left, the new number 28 cut inside and drew a save from Guaita as it looked to nestle right in the bottom corner.

Liverpool then started to wind down for the game. Manager Jürgen Klopp made the decision to let the young Reds have some minutes, and most of the big names made their way off the field for them in the 78th minute. Salah, of course, stayed on.

Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy Match Day: Fabio Carvalho Effort
Carvalho’s effort was the last to test the keeper as Liverpool started winding down the game

Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to inspire the younglings to glory. Their biggest chance came in the last minute when Salah, now wearing the captain’s armband, gave the ball to Tyler Morton, who made a good movement into the box. His left-footed shot however lacked power and was also not on target, dribbling past the post. 

The final whistle soon blew. Liverpool’s second pre-season game ended in a 2-0 victory, a more favourable result than the 4-0 loss to United a few days prior. Soon after, the team were lifting the Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy in front of the fans. It may not be the Premier League or Champions League trophy, but the fans won’t be much bothered — they have seen Jordan Henderson’s ‘shuffle’ trophy lift.

At the post-match conference, Klopp was understandably pleased with the result and performance, highlighting the solidity that was missing during the United game. He also took some time to specially thank the Singapore fans for providing such a great atmosphere, “Everything was top class from start to finish, thank you very much Singapore, it was absolutely great, and this city is beautiful. My first impression was absolutely outstanding, and this won’t be the last time I come here.”

Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy Match Day: Trophy Celebrations
Henderson and Klopp thanking the crowd after the game

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Viera was less enthused but ultimately took positives from the game as they look to continue their pre-season. “We’re never happy to concede goals in football matches but look at the quality of the Liverpool squad. The way they are playing, they make it so hard to defend, so we’re not surprised at all. We knew how tough and challenging that game will be, and again we’ve to look at our side, and I was really pleased because physically it was really demanding.”

Viera also had some lovely parting words for the Palace supporters who came to the game, saying, “(Meeting our fans in Asia) is something new for us as a football club and to come here during pre-season and coming up against one of the best teams in Europe is always good. We have support around the world, so it is good for us to come around and understand that we are known worldwide, and we have fans. That is always good for our players, to spend time with our fans for a couple of days, so that is interesting for us.”

So ends a rare Premier League clash right here in Singapore. A fairly routine win for Liverpool at the National Stadium, but it was still a night for Liverpool fans to remember. Will their return take another decade? Who knows? Either way, you’d expect the fans to come again in droves when they make their next visit.

Photos by Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC Team.

Russell Matthew Loh

Watcher of films and player of games. Dabble with writing in between.

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