Roberto Firmino scored a late winner as Liverpool maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought victory over Crystal Palace.
The Brazil striker poked in from a corner five minutes from time to restore his side’s lead three minutes after it looked as if Wilfried Zaha had rescued a point for the Eagles.
Zaha’s 82nd-minute goal was his first of the season and cancelled out Sadio Mane’s 10th goal of the season just after half-time.
Palace winger Zaha then wasted a great chance to score a second equaliser late on when he blazed over from close range.
Palace defender James Tomkins also had a goal ruled out in first-half stoppage time by the video assistant referee after Jordan Ayew was adjudged to have fouled Dejan Lovren.
Liverpool’s victory means they have now gone 30 games unbeaten in the Premier League and have still dropped only two points in the league all season.
Firmino underlines Liverpool resilience
With Jurgen Klopp deciding to keep Mo Salah on the bench following an ankle problem, the timing of Firmino’s scrappy winner was immaculate.
Not only did it end his run of nine games without a goal, it also meant Klopp could change his intention to throw Salah onto the pitch to help his side find a winner.
Late goals are becoming a trademark of Liverpool’s season and the winner should not have come as a surprise given the league leaders have claimed more points with goals after the 85th minute than any other Premier League team this term.
Following an international break where many of their players were in action, they demonstrated their resilience as they came under fire from a Palace side who tested Alisson on several occasions and should have opened the scoring when Ayew skewed wide from a first-half chance.
The visitors were however far from their best, with Trent Alexander-Arnold having an erratic day and Palace wingers Zaha and Andros Townsend causing the visiting defence problems.
But with Virgil van Dijk giving them a solid foundation, Mane continued his incredible scoring run against Palace with his eight goal in 10 league games against the Eagles.
That was before Firmino, who had a relatively quiet game, proved his value with a fourth goal of the season to earn a fifth successive win over Palace.
Palace end tough run with another defeat
Defeat for Roy Hodgson’s side was their fourth in five games during a tough run of games against top-six opposition.
Having faced Manchester City, Arsenal, second-placed Leicester and Chelsea before playing Liverpool, they may be glad to travel to Burnley next weekend.
But with more composure from Zaha they could easily have earned a draw that their play in an evenly-balanced game deserved.
The home supporters were understandably aggrieved by the VAR decision that went against Palace, as Kevin Friend had awarded the goal after Tomkins nodded in unmarked at the back post from a free-kick.
Replays, however, showed Ayew appeared to push Lovren in the back as the Liverpool defender shaped to head the ball.
That incident was just before the break and Mane scored four minutes after it, so Hodgson will take heart that his players’ heads did not drop after those two blows in quick succession.
They were always a threat to Klopp’s side and substitute Jeffrey Schlupp had Alisson scrambling to make a fine save before Zaha’s fine strike ended his drought at Selhurst Park that stretched back to 9 February.
The fact the Eagles equalised so late on and still could not earn a point will be the biggest disappointment to the former Liverpool and England manager.
Man of the match – Andros Townsend
Our best display of the season – Hodgson
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “The players should be congratulating themselves on taking a point from the leaders but it wasn’t to be. I have praise for my own team for having a go, if you can be bold enough to praise your team when you’re not winning.
“Throughout there was not an awful lot of clear-cut chances. That was testament to the defensive work we did throughout the team. The fact is you must take your chances and we only took one of ours.
“The late winner is a cruel blow but I have nothing to complain about from my side. I want to be positive, I think it was our best performance so far this season.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to Sky Sports: “At the end we won the game and it was deserved as well. There were not too many mistakes but the goal they scored was good. We have to bring plans together after the international break.
“I’m happy with the result and big parts of the performance because I know it’s not possible to be brilliant every game.”
Liverpool – the set-piece kings
- Liverpool are unbeaten in 30 Premier League matches (W25 D5); only Arsenal (49 games in October 2004) and Chelsea (40 in October 2005) have had longer runs without defeat in the history of the competition.
- Since the start of last season, Liverpool have scored 38 goals from set-pieces in the Premier League (including penalties), eight more than any other club.
- Sadio Mane is only the third Liverpool player to score in five consecutive Premier League games against a particular opponent, after Michael Owen against Newcastle and Luis Suarez against Norwich.
- Crystal Palace have lost three consecutive home league games for the first time since March 2018, when the third such defeat in that run was also against Liverpool.
- Crystal Palace have lost each of their last five league meetings with Liverpool, their longest losing run against them.
- Wilfried Zaha scored his first goal in 14 Premier League games for Crystal Palace, ending a period of 1,245 minutes on the pitch without scoring.
Crystal Palace travel to Burnley next Saturday while Liverpool host Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday before welcoming Brighton to Anfield three days later.