Mohamed Salah twice benefited from good fortune as 10-man Liverpool showed the mental strength required of champions to beat Crystal Palace 4-3, and extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points on a nervy afternoon at Anfield.
Only once previously this season had Liverpool conceded more than one goal in the league, but Roy Hodgson’s Palace pushed them all the way in a thrilling encounter.
Andros Townsend gave the visitors a halftime lead against the run of play, but deflected efforts from Salah and Roberto Firmino turned the match on its head within eight minutes of the restart.
Palace showed impressive grit to draw level as James Tomkins scored a fine header with 25 minutes left, but Salah then popped up with another freakish goal thanks to an error from 39-year-old goalkeeper Julian Speroni to swing the momentum back Liverpool’s way.
Liverpool were reduced to 10 men as James Milner saw two yellow cards, but a ruthless Sadio Mane finish in injury time made it 4-2.
And although Max Meyer scored a last-gasp third for Palace, they could not pull off a miracle comeback.
Like last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Brighton, Liverpool dominated possession before halftime without creating too many clear chances.
Joel Matip missed the hosts’ best chance, heading Milner’s corner wide when perfectly placed.
However, Liverpool were stunned in the 34th minute when Townsend ghosted in to give Palace the lead against the run of play from Wilfried Zaha’s cut-back and silence the Kop.
Yet the halftime break energised the home side, and Palace’s lead had vanished just a minute into the second period as Salah pounced to drag Liverpool level.
From the edge of the area, Van Dijk attempted a shot that bounced off James McArthur and looped into the six-yard box, where Salah was waiting to neatly volley past Speroni.
Looking to end a 29-year wait to win the title, Liverpool again got the fortune they may need to hold off champions Manchester City with a second moments later.
Naby Keita fed Firmino inside the area, and his shot also deflected past the helpless Speroni.
P A S S I O N 👊 pic.twitter.com/A0ZccOGxJy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 19, 2019
Liverpool immediately seemed to click into top gear and started attacking at will, but were hit by another Palace sucker-punch as Tomkins rose to score a superb header after 65 minutes from Luka Milivojevic’s corner.
Both sides began pushing for a winner, but it was Liverpool who found the killer touch, thanks in large part to Speroni.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Argentine, making his first appearance for 13 months, parried a simple Milner cross back towards his own goal, and Salah rushed in to tap over the line from just millimetres out.
The goal was certainly one for Speroni for forget, as were the last couple of minutes for Milner, when he was dismissed for a second bookable offence following a poor challenge on Zaha.
That looked like ensuring a nervy ending until Mane raced inside the box and clipped into the far corner in the first minute of added time.
There was still time for a seventh goal when Meyer slotted past home goalkeeper Alisson Becker, but Liverpool held on to take another step towards the title.AFP