Defender Joel Matip produced a Man of the Match performance as the Reds overcame Crystal Palace 1-0 in a tight affair at Anfield. The Cameroon international was one of very few standout players as both sides left the field knowing they could have given more, yet it was the home side who picked up their first three points of the season at Anfield.
In an attacking outfit where the forward line are usually the main talking points, Liverpool’s front trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Daniel Sturridge failed to light up the stadium with a disappointing first half display, yet as Mane finally got his goal, the Liverpool defence were on hand to see out the victory.
Standing tall at the heart of that defence was Matip, who controlled a back four involving the relatively inexperienced Joe Gomez and the often uncertain Ragnar Klavan, while left back Andy Robertson played out his Anfield debut. The experienced centre back was confident in possession, assured going forward and most importantly expertly dealt with the constant threat of former Red Christian Benteke. The Belgian has more often than not come back to haunt Liverpool in previous meetings – especially at Anfield – yet the stern Matip was his equal all afternoon. Dealing with the likes of Benteke is never an easy task as Klavan often found out, yet his defensive partner was constantly on hand to sweep up and take care of things at the back.
The Cameroon international also got forward on occasions, even winning a free-kick for his side in an extremely dangerous position, however James Milner’s effort narrowly missed the crossbar, while Matip himself perhaps could have found the back of the net with a close range header that somehow rolled past the post. Matip was exemplary in dealing with the other threats that Palace offered on the day, including Andros Townsend’s pace and even the introduction of Scott Dann up front for the away side late on, and was key in ensuring Liverpool’s first clean sheet of the season.
In a time where the club have come under huge criticism for failing to deal with set pieces and long balls forward, Joel Matip proved that perhaps he isn’t at fault for the majority of the time. Through winning header after header and tackle after tackle, the towering centre half barely put a foot wrong – apart from allowing a Benteke chance early in the second half – and proved his worth in a solid three points for Liverpool.