Liverpool blew a 3-0 lead in the final 11 minutes to draw 3-3 at Crystal Palace on Monday as their desperate search for more goals left them exposed at the back and handed the Premier League title initiative firmly back to Manchester City.
Liverpool’s naivety, allied to woeful mistakes and decision-making when victory seemed assured, almost certainly ended their hopes of a first title for 24 years and although they returned to top spot, Manchester City are now odds-on favourites to win their second title in three seasons.
Liverpool have 81 points with one match to play while City have 80 points with two matches left and a nine-goal better goal difference.
City host Aston Villa on Wednesday and West Ham United on Sunday while Liverpool’s remaining game is at home to Newcastle United.
Liverpool were coasting to victory and a three-point lead after goals from Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Suarez, who was named Footballer of the Year earlier in the day.
But Palace stormed back with two goals from substitute Dwight Gayle and one from Damien Delaney who brought Palace back into the game with a screamer in the 79th minute before Gayle’s second two minutes from time forced the draw.
The Liverpool players slumped to the ground in despair at the end with Suarez and others in tears as they left the field.
Liverpool’s title hopes, already receding after last week’s 2-0 home defeat by Chelsea and City’s 3-2 win at Everton on Saturday, are now hanging by an even slenderer thread and manager Brendan Rodgers conceded their challenge was over.
“The title race is over now, Manchester City will go on and win it. We had to win this match tonight to keep the pressure on City. I think they will go on and win the two games and be champions,” he told reporters.
“For 75 minutes it was an outstanding performance. The important thing was to win the game tonight to put some sort of pressure on City but it’s very disappointing to concede those three goals.
“It was really poor defending. Poor decision-making. We should have managed the game much better when we were 3-0 up,” he said.
“But Palace showed great spirit to come back into it,”
Palace’s fightback typified their own recovery under coach Tony Pulis this season.
Seemingly headed for relegation with just one win in their first 12 games when he took over in November, they will finish in a comfortable mid-table spot.
There was no hint of the devastation to hit Liverpool, however, as they controlled the game until the final drama unfolded.
“At halftime I really believed if we could continued…