London (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp praised his side’s unerring ability to dig out results when not at their best after Liverpool again scored late to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday and maintain their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
The leaders were indebted to an 85th-minute Roberto Firmino goal at Selhurst Park after Wilfried Zaha had cancelled out Sadio Mane’s second-half opener.
The victory made it 30 league games unbeaten for Klopp’s side and was further compelling evidence that they are well-equipped to end an agonising 30-year wait for the English league title.
“Getting a result at Crystal Palace, I don’t take it for granted,” said Klopp, whose side are eight points clear of Leicester after 13 games.
“We are not out there to show we invented football. We have a job to do to get results. We did that again.
“I have no problem that we were not brilliant today. You just have to make sure you are ready to fight for the result and we were that from the first minute.
“Could we have played better? Yes. But we had players on the pitch that on Thursday morning who were still on the plane back from Abu Dhabi or wherever (during the international break). That’s not too cool.”
Liverpool were missing Mohamed Salah, who was on the bench as he continues to struggle with an ankle injury, and lacked their usual fluency going forward in a first half dominated by Palace.
The half-chances were falling to the home side, notably when Jordan Ayew skewed his shot wide before a Joel Ward free-kick was headed onto the top of the crossbar by Gary Cahill.
It appeared that a set-piece had given Palace the lead two minutes before half-time.
A Luka Milivojevic free-kick clipped the head of Georginio Wijnaldum and dropped into the path of James Tomkins to nod home at the far post.
But Klopp’s men had VAR to thank for ruling the goal out after a review ruled that Jordan Ayew had fouled Dejan Lovren in the area.
If Liverpool had been ponderous in the first half, they sprinted into the lead within four minutes of the restart.
– Rasping shots –
First, Jordan Henderson released Mane with a thrusting through ball only for the striker to drag his shot wide.
Within seconds, he atoned for that miss when Firmino flicked Andy Robertson’s cross into his path.
Mane swivelled and sent in a shot that had just enough force to skim the hand of Palace keeper Vicente Guaita and spin off one post onto the other and cross the line.
The home side responded with rasping shots from first Andros Townsend and then Milivojevic.
At the other end, Firmino almost made it 2-0 midway through the second half, toe-poking a shot which Guaita palmed away for a corner.
That seemed a costly miss as Palace fought their way back into the contest. Alisson Becker was required to tip away a low Jeffrey Schlupp drive before substitute Christian Benteke went close with a spectacular bicycle kick.
The former Liverpool player then helped set up the equaliser, bursting into the area and finding Townsend, who slipped the ball to Zaha. A quick shimmy later and Zaha struck a low shot beyond Alisson.
However, as so often this season, Liverpool found an immediate answer. Virgil van Dijk’s scuffed effort sowed panic in the Palace ranks following a corner and Firmino popped up to steer the loose ball into an empty net.
The fortune that follows champions surfaced again in injury-time when Zaha, superbly found by an astute clipped Townsend pass, slashed at the ball and sent his shot high over the Liverpool bar.
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