Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he felt “massive relief” after Mohamed Salah’s double helped his side go seven points clear at the top of the Premier League following a thrilling 4-3 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Salah is the league’s top scorer with 16 after goals at Anfield that contained huge slices of luck, with Liverpool having to overcome a determined Palace team in a rollercoaster encounter.
Liverpool will happily accept goals of all types as they look to win the league title for the first time in 29 years and this result again heaped pressure on second-placed Manchester City, who face Huddersfield Town on Sunday.
“It’s a massive relief. We knew for different reasons the game would be difficult,” Klopp said afterwards.
“Crystal Palace traditionally do well against Liverpool and with the physicality it was clear it would be like the first half was.
“We had to stay positive, being one down is not a massive blow, we just needed to win the second half and did what we had to do.”
Palace were the last team to beat Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League back in April 2017 and the south London club looked on course to repeat that feat when Andros Townsend gave the visitors a well-worked lead after 34 minutes.
Liverpool came flying out of the blocks after the break though as Salah and Roberto Firmino helped the Reds hit back within eight minutes of the re-start.
Salah’s opener for Liverpool came courtesy of a Virgil van Dijk shot that took a huge deflection off James McArthur and fell perfectly to him three yards out before Firmino curled into Julian Speroni’s far corner.
– ‘Different ways to win’ –
However the match was only just getting started. James Tomkins headed Palace level with 25 minutes remaining before Salah scored another freakish goal, bundling home from less than yard out after Speroni — the Premier League’s oldest player — fumbled a soft James Milner cross and gifted the ball to the Egyptian.
Palace were helped when Milner was sent off for a second bookable offence following a sloppy tackle on Wilfried Zaha a minute before the end of normal time, but Sadio Mane scored four minutes later to give Liverpool a 4-2 lead that finished the Londoners despite Max Meyer sweeping past Becker in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
One of the defining characteristics of Liverpool under Klopp’s side is the way they can win in contrasting fashions, be it Saturday’s seven-goal thriller or last week’s efficient 1-0 success at Brighton.
“There are different ways to win football games and today we had to dig in to do that,” Klopp said. “I’m really happy. The result is massive, we have 60 points now it’s crazy, it’s an important number.”
Salah’s double meant the Egypt forward had now scored 50 Premier League goals in just 72 appearances.
“It’s an exceptional achievement from a world-class player,” said Klopp. “It’s a classical win-win situation because he benefits from our style of play and the other boys benefit from him scoring goals.”
– ‘Wicked cruelty’ –
Palace boss Roy Hodgson, who managed Liverpool for a tumultuous period between July 2010 and January 2011 and is not fondly remembered on Merseyside, was left to reflect on his side’s bad luck.
“I thought it was a really good performance,” Hodgson said. “To find yourself 2-1 down to a 45-yard shot that was deflected and then a deflected shot was unfortunate.
“To come back to 2-2 was commendable. The third goal, the cruelty of football shows itself at its most wicked.”
As for Liverpool’s title chances, the ex-England manager added: “Liverpool have the wherewithal and the margin of points at the top. That is a good place to be.
“I am pretty sure that Jurgen Klopp and his staff and players realise there is a long way to go.”