Liverpool needed the help of a controversial late penalty to survive a second-half fightback from Crystal Palace as they closed the gap on Manchester City with a 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park.
The Reds dominated the first half and were two-up at the break thanks to goals from Virgil van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but a much-improved showing saw the Eagles hit back through Odsonne Edouard after the restart.
However, Fabinho’s 89th-minute spot-kick sealed the win as the visitors took advantage of City’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Saturday evening to move within nine points of the defending champions at the top of the Premier League, with a game in hand.
Jurgen Klopp made two changes to the side that started Thursday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final win over Arsenal, with Alisson Becker returning in goal and Oxlade-Chamberlain replacing Kaide Gordon on the wing.
Patrick Vieira made similar adjustments, with his No1 goalkeeper Vicente Guiata back between the sticks and Jean-Philippe Mateta coming in to lead the line in place of Eberechi Eze, while Jordan Ayew was back among the substitutes after Ghana’s early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Scot was the provider for the second goal soon after the half-hour mark as well, as Liverpool worked the ball smartly across the pitch before the left-back’s far post cross found Oxlade-Chamberlain, who drove left-footed through Guiata. There was a degree of controversy over the goal, though, with VAR opting not to intervene despite Roberto Firmino clearly being in an offside position as he challenged for Robertson’s cross.
For 35 minutes, Liverpool had been in complete control, Palace panicked in possession and struggling to gain any sort of foothold as Klopp’s side kept them penned in, but a couple of lax moments saw the hosts given encouragement before the interval.
First, Joel Matip’s blind pass across his own box gifted Michael Olise possession but the winger was denied by Alisson after being forced wide by Van Dijk.
Then it was Firmino’s turn to pick out Olise with a wayward pass, this time on halfway, and the youngster slipped Mateta in behind, but the forward’s finish after half-rounding Alisson somehow trickled wide of the far post, with both Matip and Van Dijk doing well to avoid diverting it into their own net as they scrambled back on the cover
Olise was the catalyst for a lightning start to the second half from the hosts, who might’ve scored twice within three minutes of the restart.
The 20-year-old first led Robertson a merry dance before crossing to the near post for Conor Gallagher, whose run was perfectly timed but whose glancing header did not have enough on it to deflect home. Then, his cross found Jeffrey Schlupp at the far post and the midfielder knocked down for Edouard but his back-heel effort was smothered by Alisson.
Still, the hosts did not have to wait long to halve the deficit as Schlupp cut Liverpool’s defence apart with a magnificent pass in behind for Mateta, who unselfishly squared to leave Edouard an open goal. Eze, Ayew and Christian Benteke were all sent on by Vieira as Palace chased a leveller but predictably it was Olise who went closest to finding it, latching onto Joachim Andersen’s long ball and attempting to lob Alisson, only for the Brazilian to get back and push round the post.
And any chance of a late equaliser was wiped out when VAR harshly ruled that Guiata had fouled Diogo Jota after the Portuguese had already sliced his effort out of play, Fabinho making no mistake from 12 yards.